It’s been almost a year and a half since we’ve last seen new episodes of Childrens Hospital, when the show ended its fifth and most experimental season, which was essentially the M*A*S*H season. Last season’s Japanese Army base setting—as the cast and crew have said in the past—was a way to try something new and keep the show from getting stale, which is strange considering how this is basically a show that can do anything at any time and make it fit into its weird world.
The fifth season was uneven, often fun, but never quite as consistently good as usual. This attempt at mixing things up on a larger scale seems to have refueled this group as they return to their home of Childrens Hospital in Brazil—which as we all know is where they were before—and jump five years into the future. Yes, even though we are now in 2020 Brazil, it feels good to be home.
Right before leaving the Japanese base, Owen is arrested for being part of a criminal surgery fixing ring and sent to five years in a maximum security penitentiary. When he returns to Brazil, he’s got a gigantic beard, he’s threatened by Chief—who is still a part of the surgery ring, has scheduled Owen for a heart surgery hours after getting out of jail, and promises to kill him with her extra long fingernail if he doesn’t take a dive during the surgery. Sy also threatens Owen by saying that if his performance decreases by 4%, he’s fired. Throwing salt on the wound, Owen’s office has been turned into a public fart room and maybe worst of all, his girlfriend Cat—who he hasn’t seen in five years—is pregnant with a baby she claims is his. It’s safe to say, things aren’t going so well for Owen.
“Five Years Later” gets Childrens Hospital right back on track by catching us up on these characters and just how strange we might have forgotten this show was. I had also forgotten just how much plot Childrens Hospital can throw in an episode and still pay it all off pretty brilliantly. Even though so much is happening to Owen this episode, it all pretty much gets tied up in the last few minutes. Owen goes through the surgery, stops Chief and makes Sy happy by keeping his numbers up.
As for the baby, everyone mistakes Owen for Doctor Ron Pippin, Owen’s cellmate and the only other doctor in lockup—played by Chris Parnell at his Parnelliest. It’s such a strange mistake that everyone makes that it’s one of those weird ideas Childrens Hospital plays off that almost reconfigures how you understand these people. To be fair, Chris Parnell does seem like he could be the older brother of Rob Huebel in some odd universe, as this one is.
The baby, well, let’s try not to think about that for the next thirteen weeks…
“Five Years Later” is basically what Childrens Hospital needed after such a long hiatus, getting us all caught up on the characters, the environment and the tone of this increasingly insane and fun show. “Five Years Later” is a crash course back into the mix and it feels so good to be back.
Ross Bonaime is a D.C.-based freelance writer and regular contributor to Paste. You can follow him on Twitter.