Portlandia Review: "Feminist Bookstore 10th Anniversary" (Episode 2.08)

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This week’s episode of Portlandia—“Feminist Bookstore 10th Anniversary”—opens with a PSA of sorts from stars Carrie Brownstein and Fred Armisen (as eco-warrior twins Marcus and Madeline Harris), who introduce us to Portland’s new recycling program.

In typical Portlandia fashion, the program gets really granular: In addition to the bins for newspapers and plastics, items like coffee lids go onto the fuchsia bins (unless of course there’s lipstick on the lid, then it goes into the rose-colored ones). Lotion-bottle contents are placed in the chartreuse bins, and finger nail clippings and egg shells go into the miniature cobalt bins, and so on down the line. We learn that through this massive recycling effort, three percent of the recycling gets turned into clean air, water and good wishes. The other 97 percent gets dumped into the ocean. End scene and roll opening credits.

After last week’s disappointing “Motorcycle” episode, Portlandia gets its groove back.

As we can guess from the episode’s title, we get to see lots of Toni (Brownstein) and Candice (Armisen) as they celebrate the first decade of Women and Women First Bookstore. They have at least a dozen women at their celebration, but one guest sticks out in particular—no not LaMarcus Aldridge, forward for the Portland Trail Blazers (we’ll get to that in a minute)—but Barbara, who helped open Women and Women First. The long lost prodigal daughter has returned, and she’s played by…Penny Marshall.

Candice seethes when she sees Barbara, and we know that there’s bad blood left between the two. We’re not quite sure if Barbara and Candy were in a relationship and Barbara switched teams (Aldridge is Barbara’s boyfriend). We eventually learn the sticking point between the two women are “bed sweaters.” It seems that Candy thought of the idea of wearing “bed sweaters” at night to keep warm—but Barbara took the idea and made a ton of money in the bed sweater industry. “I’m entrepreneurial,” she whines in classic Marshall fashion to Toni, who tries to salvage the party and fix the bad blood between the two former friends.

Toni finds Candice in one of the aisles; she’s pissed and pouring gasoline on the floor—from a very phallic looking container (as Toni points out). “I was going to burn it down…just this aisle,” Candice says. Right. Because that’s how fires burn in Portlandia. The women eventually make peace with each other and the party continues on. It’s too bad that the guitarist who accompanies Portland blues artist Angel Bouchet, decides to light a cigarette.

We loved Marshall in these sketches because she can bring out the worst in Armisen’s Candice. And the randomness of LaMarcus Adridge and “bed sweaters” just adds to the show’s off-beat nature.

Our least favorite scenes from this week feel like they were dialed in, almost throwaways. We’re not big fans of Dave and Kath anyway, so it doesn’t surprise us at all when they take hours to prep for a day hike amassing all the gear involved. Yawner. Another scene featured Armisen solo as a dance instructor with a fear of lawsuits. After he dismisses everyone from the class who has allergies, he lectures those that remain on logos, Charlie Brown shirts and that dance is 80 percent movement, 10 percent lawsuits and the other 10 percent of “dealing with said lawsuits.”

One of our favorite skits of the show involves Peter and Nance at Copypilot. They want to create a sign to bring to their first Portland Timbers soccer game. At first, they test out this sign: “Did you ever think you’d see us on TV? Go Timbers…we hope you win…Love, Peter and Nance and by the way this is our first game.” They play with other possibilities, much to the exasperation of the silent copy shop employee.

Five hours later, in the stands, they hold up an 8×11 sheet of paper with an image of their cat and a soccer ball. They lead the crowd in their cheer: “Please please win…meow, meow, meow.” So random but that’s what we love about the show.

And speaking of random—really random—the other notable skit this week plays on the popularity of CSA (community supported agriculture) deliveries. Michelle and Brenden, the music snob parents from “Grover,” get a durian fruit in this week’s shipment. Native to Southeast Asia, we learned from watching too much Travel Channel that durian is the stinky fruit that emits a foul odor when opened. We didn’t know that local Portland farmers grew durian trees, but we’ll go with it for a minute because this skit gets really, really weird.

Brendan and Michelle try every which way to open the fruit, and we thought the punchline would focus around its malodorous properties. But we were very very wrong: It turns out this durian has magical properties. It cleans and reorganizes things around the house while the two are asleep. And here’s where it gets really crazy: The durian turns out to be an alien creature that uses the house as a spaceship to launch into space, leaving Brendan and Michelle an empty lot.

We’re thinking that maybe some hallucinogenics were involved in the planning of this skit. Some fans may hate this scene, but here’s why we’re defending it: As soon as we thought we had the Portlandia formula figured out, Brownstein, Armisen and director Jonathan Krisel manage to turn everything upside down and surprise us once again.

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