I hate to say it, but this week’s episode of Key & Peele feels like a midseason offering. That’s not to imply that it’s subpar, but there’s something subtly clunky about this episode. Its transitions don’t run as smoothly and the disjointed feel of the sketch selection slows the pace down to an unusually relaxed rate. That considered, the episode has its fair share of hysterical moments-not to mention the return of one of Key & Peele’s most ridiculous characters.
My favorite bits from Key & Peele are the ones that find the nexus of sidesplitting humor and social commentary. This episode’s opening sketch, in which Key and Peele play African men requesting aid from a white American diplomat, fits the bill beautifully. Although it is short, it is memorable and punchy, and takes a fine jab at the ulterior motives of United States’ foreign affairs. It isn’t subtle, either. “The American government supports you in every possible way,” the American agent says. It’s punctuated with a breathier, “ideologically, of course.”
But the best sketch of the week is undeniably “Sex Addict Wendall,” which brings back the fan-favorite character. Here, Wendall takes a seat in an addiction group therapy session. When his time comes to share, his story digresses into a declaration of food lust-and, not so subtly, a attempt to woo female members of the support group. Peele’s Wendall is, as always, humorously vain and awkward. His delicate southern drawl clashes wildly with his blatant plea for affection, his vulgar lies regarding his sex life, and his grotesquely intimate recollection of eating a large pizza. There’s no denying that Wendall is morally bankrupt (after all, he’s fishing for a sex partner in a sex addiction therapy group), and the slow zoom that frames his face acts as a nice technical illustration of that.
I really enjoyed the “Scat Duel” sketch as well, and fully embraced its vulgar jokes and hilariously crude sing-song dialogue (“You smell like butt,” being a shining example). The sketch takes place in a 1960s jazz club, with Key and Peele playing two singers caught in a frustrating love triangle. Instead of sticking to the scat style’s signature qualities-that is, mimicking the sound of instruments with one’s vocals-they insert quick, camouflaged words to slyly insult one another while on stage. It’s a clever vignette that offers a nice departure from more typical dialogue-based scenarios, and gives the impression that it was a blast to produce.
Then there’s “Dicknanigans”-the sketch that sticks with me most vividly. The scene isn’t perfect, but it’s instantly quirky and a hilarious demonstration of how weird Key & Peele is willing to get. It’s also a hysterical jab at dramatic performance art beloved by cultured yuppies, complete with a Terry Richardson lookalike (surely unintended) nodding in approval from the audience. Key and Peele, who play the performance artists, wear monochromatic morph suits and repeatedly kick one another in the groin as words like “love” or “society” glow on a projector. It’s so comically avant garde, and, if this episode had aired just a few weeks earlier, it’s easy to imagine attendees showing up at Halloween parties donning the duo’s attire.
The Take It Or Leave It
A sketch in which a teacher (Key) loses his cool with Jimmy, the class clown (Peele), teetered on tedium, and it left me mostly frustrated. Aspects of the sketch are certainly admirable, like Key’s flawless characterization of a laid-back teacher trying maintain composure, and I enjoyed the inspirational sports film-inspired title sequence at the end of the vignette. That said, the sketch’s running time couldn’t support its central joke, and the end result was kind of exhausting.
The Car Sequences
I have a suspicion that the interstitial car sequences, which usually act as a smooth segue from one sketch to another, are to blame for the episode’s overall slower pacing. Typically, relevant exchanges from inside the car proceed the show’s next sketch (so, for example, Key and Peele would discuss horror films before a scary vignette played). This week, however, applicable banter tended to follow their respective scenes, making for the occasional awkward transition. But even still, there were plenty of gems in this episode’s transitionary dialogue. Peele’s goofy pitch for a dick-centric sketch, for example, was a hilarious spin on the show’s pitching process.
All things considered, this is undeniably a fine episode filled with several laugh-out-loud moments, and is particularly fitting for watching online, where disconnected vignettes can easily stand alone without the support of the series’ car sequences.