Although this week’s episode of Key & Peele features one of my favorite sketches to date, it’s overall not the strongest offering from the duo’s fifth season. Of course, there are plenty of hilarious moments, and a particularly strong first act that sets it all into motion. Let’s get right to it.
HE’S NOT A TRUE GANGSTER
The first few frames of this week’s episode show Peele behind the wheel of a green Chevrolet convertible, wielding a handgun as he drives down a residential street. It’s a gangster scene lifted straight from popular culture, at least until a later cut-to totally tears down that façade. The vintage Chevy is swapped for a ramshackle cardboard cutout that hilariously exposes our clichéd gangster’s pants as he crouches in a stopped position outside of his would-be target’s home. The car takes the props cake for sure, but the other remarkably lackluster objects (including a licorice gun, which is a close runner up) do a nice job of turning what was previously flashy into signifiers of a total character front. It’s a fairly poignant poke at—ugh, dare I say it?—posers (long time, no see, 2007 verbiage!). The proverbial cherry on this zinger is Peele taking a bite out of his candy gun, and the reaction it gets from people watching it all go down. Another great gag comes right at the end, when the character simulates hydraulics and drives (er…walks?) off-screen. It’s hysterical. This whole act was one of my favorite moments from this week’s show, and a nice way to get things started.
Best Line: “You were scared for, like, a minute, though!”
MC MOM AND THOSE CRISPY SOCKS
This is my favorite sketch of the season. I said it, I believe it, I stand by it. I feel pretty confident that a lot of you folks dug it a whole lot, too. And how could you not? In this sketch, Key is a very, very unfortunate college student, whose custom DVD from mom has fallen into the hands of his friends. The DVD is everything you’d want it to be and more, complete with a cheesy pink backdrop, high school photo of Key, and Helvetica exclamation of “To My Handsome Little Man Carl!” title screen. But even that doesn’t remotely hint at what’s to come: Peele as 1990s-ish suburban mom, sporting a hella busy shirt, blonde bouffant, and dead-eyes as she raps in a kitchen, occasionally lugging a boom box on her shoulder. It’s beyond well and good, but the most ridiculous stuff goes down in Key’s character’s childhood bedroom. It’s unabashedly crude, particularly in its frequent reappearance of “crispy socks,” which MC Mom eventually uses in place of dollar bills to make it rain. A beat change, bird flipping backwards walk, and explosion later (oh yeah, she did), and mom’s foray into hip-hop has wrapped. Holy hell, it’s funny. And to answer a question you may have had before heading into this episode, there is a referential moment in this week’s episode. This vignette ends with a title card reading that K&P coined phrase, “Pussy on the Chainwax.” I think we can all agree that MC Mom is totally deserving of those words.
Best Line: So many! I vote either:
“I’ve been cleaning with the broom and the vacuum
and found Victoria’s Secret is… she’s hiding in your room!”
“Queen bee, I’m a be throwin’ out your fucking mattress
Hell yeah, baddest bitch in the business.”
Gold. Gold. Gold.
EXCUSE ME, BIG MAN…
This is a satisfying sketch for the middle of the show, but ultimately one that’s not quite memorable in the long run. In it, two panhandlers make a dead-ended decision to hit each other up for money, despite them both employing the same sympathy rousing gags to conjure up the generosity of passersby. Key is particularly fun to watch in this one. His confident retelling of his wife’s eyeball replacement surgery, for example, lands perfectly thanks to his animated, matter-of-fact delivery. I also enjoyed the fake debit card ending, when both characters try and trick their counterpart by handing off either a Ralph Rewards Card or a new purse credit card holder as something valuable. Did they not see that coming?
Best Line: “I, too, have multiple IDs, crescendoing in this—dun dun dun duuun—Yogurtland punch card. I’m on my ninth purchase, apparently, and you can’t fake that.”
BE NICE TO THE NEW GUY
This is Key & Peele in my favorite form. The parody of familiar reality television goes beyond a funny imitation, and, instead, churns out a damn well near carbon copy of its inspiration—albeit with a few hysterical digressions. This sketch begins with the sappy third act reveal of the boss in a typical Undercover Boss program, and the regret that a particularly rude coworker (Key) feels after realizing that the “newbie” he was picking on was the company president. Dude. This is real life. If Undercover Boss was true to reality, this kind of thing would inevitably happen! Here, Key & Peele run with the premise while maintaining the melodrama of its inspiration, creating a growing conflict between the now overly apologetic bully and his unforgiving boss. The jokes are totally blue, but their amped up ridiculousness make the left field, suspense flick ending all the more exciting—and bizarre. Not to mention, there are a few wonderfully playful moments that blend the at-play genres, from the out-of-focus Joseph creeping up the stairwell while employee Betty Burns is in close frame, or the seemingly throwaway joke of Norman the foreman. It’s far from the show’s greatest material, but it’s pretty fun stuff.
Best Line: “Don’t nobody want to hear your bullshit, newbie! Don’t nobody want to hear it!”
“WHY. DOES. YOUR. BREATH. SMELL. LIKE. BIRDSEED?
Here, the Key & Peele writers have some fun at the expense of Outkast. Big Boi (played by Peele) is modest and unassuming, and nonchalantly responds to an admiring barista while ordering a simple coffee in a cafe. When she asks if he’ll collaborate with Andre 3000 again, Peele’s disturbed facial expression reveals an entire backstory without relying much on words. Those reservations are understood as soon as Andre 3000 (Key) enters the scene. Key’s take on Andre 3000 is choicely eccentric, and he wears an outfit that draws equal inspiration from Andre 3000’s “Hey Ya” video get up and Peter Pan…on acid. Like, lots of acid. This sketch reminds me of the steampunk bit from last season, with the roles reversed. Here, Peele is the straight man and Key is whimsical weird-o. Truly, the fact that Outkast is the focus is ultimately inconsequential, and the lasting feeling I have from this particular sketch is that it’s a bit uninspired. Points for Sarah Baker’s appearance though. It’s always nice when she shows up!
Best Line: “One green half-caf half-decaf mint mocha latter foam on the bottom in a vase!”
The final sketch of this episode shows the aftermath of a minor car accident. Likely at fault is a d-bag teenager (Peele) who drives a shitty car with T-tops and gives out business cards that say “License to Fart.” Peele’s teen, complete with a lazy vocal fry and hollow innocence, is initially interesting. But the sketch wears on too long, and lacks redeeming jokes or personalities that save it from tedium.
Best (Line) in Show: “This is a Walgreen’s receipt!”
INTERSTITIAL CAR SEQUENCES
Moms talking about sex, Peele’s commitment to reality television, and learner’s permits are hot topics in this week’s car sequences, as well as particularly enjoyable exchange centered on Simon and Garfunkel. I also loved Key’s tongue-and-cheek joke about the car sequence’s backdrop (who knew that “scrub brush” was such a great word pairing?), and Peele’s fourth wall breaking wink at the camera. I’m appreciating these moments more and more knowing that the program’s wrapping soon.