Key & Peele Review: "Airplane Showdown"

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<i>Key & Peele</i> Review: "Airplane Showdown"

Episode two of Key & Peele‘s fifth season aired Wednesday night, offering both new and familiar characters for us to hang out with. Here’s a recap:


Oh, caricatured radio personalities! This quick opener for Key & Peele’s latest episode shows us the hidden personalities of radio deejays. Turns out, this morning crew is composed of crafty intellectuals, and they use their off-air time to paint still life portraits and read classic novels. I love these short openers. They may not have the long-term appeal of character-driven or socially relevant sketches, but the rapid set up/breakdown format allow the writers to mine any topic for inspiration. You just never know what you’re gonna get.

Nice Touch: Key’s Sherlockian pipe. Can someone bring that trend back?


Here, K&P continues to mine the increasingly treacherous process of air travel for jokes. What we have here is a showdown between flight attendant and passenger. Key plays a man hell-bent on relieving himself, despite the “fasten seatbelt” sign being illuminated. Peele is a nasally flight attendant crushing Key’s dreams of bathroom salvation. It’s a classic Western film premise—rogue man vs. the law (“Is it against the law?”)—taking place on the narrow aisle of a commercial jet liner.

Am I weird because this sketch stressed me out? Probably. The sense of twisted anguish I feel when Peele’s flight attendant “wins” the battle gives me serious doubts about my emotional stability. That said, I can appreciate an epic mid-air showdown when I see one, especially when it involves some stunt guy getting tossed in the air again and again (and again). Sidebar: Where is that off the wall anti-terrorist duo from last week? That would’ve added a nice dimension to this bit.

Nice Touch: Peele’s dead stare while strapped into his jump seat. That focus—so admirable!


At some crossing in your life, an older man (it’s always an older man) leads you to believe that you could dispense cash money from your ears. Or, maybe you played along in an awkward I’m-too-old-for-this-but-will-roll-with-it offensive. After playfully pulling a quarter from a boy’s ear, an elderly man (Key) notices something odd: the edge of a hundred dollar bill carefully tucked in said child’s earhole. Pulling them like tissues from a box, Key removes bill after bill, before running off with the child altogether.

A simple vignette that could easily work as an episode opener, this is a pretty tame bit that works nicely as an interstitial sketch. Its aim isn’t poignancy, but who says that’s a bad thing? It’s an odd twist on a familiar premise that takes us to a place we weren’t expecting. There’s a little more to it than your average internet meme, but there’s a similar sense of instant shareability.

Nice Touch: What’s up It’s Always Sunny soundtrack! Nice seeing you here!


Key and Peele are the textbook image of 19th century British explorers, offering a whole lotta flimsy reservation about exploiting indigenous peoples during voyages to Africa. Everything is about sexual gratification and ego feeding (the ultimate metaphor for imperialism, as Freud might suggest), and they punctuate shallow caution with iconoclastic fist bumps. It’s visually the most impressive vignette from the episode, with a cinematic aesthetic that lends heavily to its humor. Of course, Key and Peele’s hilariously over-exaggerated English accents and mannerisms help, too.

Nice Touch: The low angle shot, which puts a frame of African décor around each talking head, is some killer direction.


You might remember Shaboots Michaels and T-Ray Tombstone from a former episode, where they lead a class on cunnilingus (and then revealed themselves as women in disguise). Well, they’re back! Where last week gave us a pirate-sang anthem for gender equality, this episode keeps the feminist conversation going with For All Species, a Ted Talk-style presentation on menstruation. Michaels (Key) and Tombstone (Peele) lecture with a type of evangelical flair, offering one of the better period discussions you’ll find on television. Seriously, what other channel will you flip to and see popular entertainers demonstrating tampon insertion—without anyone have a Superbad-style freak-out? We also have some gem dialog at play, like the particularly incredible: “Every time they bleed, it’s like the shining in the toilet!”

Nice Touch: Tampons as “space dynamite. Oh my god, that’s brilliant.


Oh, how frustrating this one was. Nobody at a two-couple dinner party can finish a damn sentence due to fear of spoilers. The best part of this bit is that little glisten of hope each person visibly experiences when they pinpoint a potential discussion topic. It’s always quickly deflated. Turns out, there’s a spoiler for everything, except cheesecake. Everyone can amiably talk about cheesecake. Now, if this doesn’t make want to take you back to a pre-DVR, pre-internet time, well…you aren’t me. And if you’re looking to get out of that double date with your significant other this weekend, fire up this bit and you’ll have some ammunition.

Nice Touch: Toss up between those scat jazz sounds of rejection, and the dinner party deal-breaker being the revelation that spoiler alert death is the ultimate twist ending.


Here we have a religious group huddled mid-prayer in a living room. When the prayer leader asks God how to help the disenfranchised, the man upstairs answers the call! Communicating with the room via beam of light (because, duh, that’s his medium), he asks everyone to “sell everything you own and immediately begin service to the poor.” This doesn’t sit well with the group, who deems the voice a ghost and run from the room. This playful poke at hypocrisy is quite astute, and takes the cake for tongue-in-cheek bit of the week.

Nice Touch: God’s sad, “Oh, I see what they did there” reaction to his followers’ rejection.


Perhaps this is a side effect of splicing the extended season, but the interstitial road trip does feel slightly jarring in season five. Wasn’t this a riff on True Detective in the first place? It’d be nice to see a new theme for these connecting vignettes in later seasons, especially if they continue the trend of finding inspiration in ultra-relevant pop culture.