Halfway through “Co-Op” I felt like I was hallucinating. Was that my food co-op? Okay, I haven’t joined yet because they just announced a program for people who can’t afford a membership and I need to write a letter of “extraordinary need,” but honestly it looked exactly the same. The exterior is the same, brick building with a green awning, the interior, the inside the same jumbled mess of shelves, and I swear to god the same fliers. I know they’re in New York and I’m in Chicago but is there a wormhole in all food co-ops that take you to the same place?
As opposed to the season premiere, “Co-Op” felt like a more polished episode and also gave me a minor existential crisis. There aren’t a lot of pieces of media that I watch and immediately identify with in the particular way I identified with this episode of Broad City. And the ones I do are usually depressing as fuck. But the details of this episode spoke to me so deeply that I left it feeling comforted and also extremely confused. Is this how basic people feel when they watch Friends? What have I been missing my entire life?
In this episode, Abbi has to pretend to be Ilana to cover her work shift at the co-op because Ilana has to go to the doctor in Long Island, driven by a Lincoln that’s both nervous and acting a little more boyfriend-y than usual. Obviously none of this is going to go right.
In terms of comedy tropes as old as time, one character pretending to be another character is up there for me. Abbi’s Ilana impression is amazing because it explains why it’s cute when Ilana does it, but would be fucking awful to be around in real life. Abbi’s Ilana is crude, loud, constantly making sex references and honestly, it just made me want to punch her in the face. Who would want to be around that? As it turns out at the co-op, everyone finds her extremely obnoxious rather than charming. Except for Craig, who seems to tolerate her for the most part because Abbi spends the entire time, as Ilana, trying to set him up with herself.
When Ilana gets to Long Island I had to pause the episode because it got a little too real. She was heading to her pediatrician to her final HPV vaccine shot. This is literally what I did, in real life. The year before I went to college I had my pediatrician give me the HPV vaccine because I’m a huge baby and didn’t want to find a grown up doctor and also I hate shots. My doctor didn’t give me a lollipop like Ilana’s did, but he might as well have.
I totally get it too—the episode sets up Ilana’s fear of the doctor as somewhat irrational but if you’ve ever had the HPV vaccine you’d know that the last one feels like fire is being injected into your body. My arm went numb when I was driving home from the doctor when I got mine. Luckily, Ilana has Lincoln to take care of her. Unfortunately, Lincoln has finally worked up the nerve to tell Ilana that he hooked up with someone else.
Despite a fake-out that has Ilana literally climbing a tree in what appears to be anger, she’s overjoyed. She’s the free spirited one, remember? She thinks it’s super hot and asks Lincoln if they can trick her into a threesome. His reply, “People really shouldn’t trick other people into having sex,” was far and away my favorite line in the episode.
Back at the co-op, Abbi is finding it increasingly difficult to maintain her charade because she and Craig have so much in common, specifically things that Ilana would hate. Abbi and Craig are both artists and both love Phish, and on top of that, Craig really likes a girl with a butt.
Of course, it all falls apart—Ilana bursts in to talk to Abbi about Lincoln, meets Craig, and then after Ilana’s awful Abbi impression (“I come from a long line of colonial Jews!”), she comes clean and is reported to the head of the co-op for sharing shifts.
This last portion of this episode, an extended riff on the weirdness of Scientology, is what really made me feel like Abbi and Ilana might actually literally be exactly like me. Is this how that girl in my college cafeteria felt like when she said that Girls was just like her life? How did Abbi and Ilana know that I’d wandered down a Scientology wiki-hole the other day, and would giggle when they’re both declared “SPs—Shitty People”?
It’s rare that the weirdoes, the food co-op members, the HPV havers of the world get a chance to relate so deeply to a piece of media that takes them seriously, that laughs with them and not at them. When was the last time you saw food co-op membership taken seriously, or mentioned at all outside of Portlandia? Broad City isn’t trying to find commonality via the lowest common denominator, but speaking to specific experiences that have a wider reach than most people would think. The Abbi and Ilana of Broad City feel real not because they actually feel like, or even talk like, real people, but because they give me so many chances to say, “Me too!” Ask any of your female friends about the HPV vaccine. I swear, it really is that bad. And food co-ops are both that great and that weird. The only thing I really didn’t get was liking Phish. I’m sorry, I just never got into Phish. Y’all were spot on for the rest though.
Gita Jackson is Paste’s assistant comedy editor.