Childrens Hospital in past seasons has excelled at going to the logical extreme of any given situation, then taking the next step beyond that ideal. Yet this season has just sort of stopped before crossing the line with its ideas and the show has suffered for it. “Fan Fiction,” while probably the best episode of the season, still just took on the obvious targets. Last week’s “With Great Power…” simply took on superhero films by making the “powers” incredibly basic and did little else. “Just Like Cyrano de Bergerac” however does work because it goes to the extreme and then goes further than expected, thus defying expectations.
“Just Like Cyrano de Bergerac” is exactly what the episode sounds like. Blake hits it off with a patient, played by Lindsay Sloane, but he struggles to even understand how to make normal conversation while talking to her, so Glenn helps Blake know what to say by basically following him everywhere and whispering in his ear. The obvious joke here is not only just how much help Blake needs (a lot), but how many places this means Glenn will have to go, such as inside the woman’s home and even whispering to Blake from almost under the bed while Blake and her have sex.
Yet by taking the next step, Childrens Hospital finally gets back to that ridiculous level where it almost always shines. It turns out that Glenn also needs help giving Blake the right thing to say, so he calls Owen, and the literal and figurative game of telephone continues from there. Owen called Chance Briggs. Briggs calls Rabbi Jewy McJewJew. The Rabbi calls Paul Scheer’s Sir Tinkle Button, who calls James Adomian as “guy-who’s-holding-a-notebook-but-it’s-a-reporter,” who confers with Jordan Peele’s Dr. Brian, which then gets to Sy and a few other randos that pop up, all the way down to the Indian phone operator. To make things even crazier, Blake’s date is also on her own game of telephone with a bunch of people, which also happens to include Adomian again, but this time as Madonna, and goes all the way to the female Indian telephone operator in the opposite cubicle from the male one, as the two fall in love at the end of the episode.
Not only does this allow the show to get as crazy as it routinely should be, it also allows for a large part of the cast to make appearances. It’s rare to now see Blake, Glenn and Owen all in a story together and it’s great to see them reunited. But it’s also just wonderful to see so many old faces, so much so that every new layer the phone call reaches was truly exciting to see who would come next.
Even though the barely-there B-plot is so dumb and does so little, it’s hard not to sort of like it. Cat and the Chief decide to prank phone call Sy, since they think he’s getting a big head. They seem to think its a bigger deal than it is, since the phone call just ends with Sy getting frustrated at them. Nothing more. That’s it.
“Just Like Cyrano de Bergerac” is directed by Lake Bell, so it’s no wonder how great this episode looks, with the crazy phone call never getting too confusing on the screen and ending with a pretty beautiful final image. Taking what is essentially a gigantic series of phone calls and making it visually compelling is no easy feat.
“Just Like Cyrano de Bergerac” feels like old Childrens Hospital, where everyone could show up for an episode that would just get increasingly strange. With an episode like this, it’s hard not to fall for Childrens Hospital for its looks and its wit.
Ross Bonaime is a D.C.-based freelance writer and regular contributor to Paste. You can follow him on Twitter.