Look at that episode title. Forrest gets to review happiness, pillow fights, and imaginary friends. How delightful that sounds. How footloose and fancy free it seems. Sure, Forrest has had his troubles. One of his ex-girlfriends was shot down by the U.S. government, and last week he ended up killing a guy out of self-defense/out of the need to review what it is like to kill a person. Maybe this week, though, Forrest will get a respite. This is Review, though, so you know he doesn’t.
When the episode begins, Forrest is still shaken by the events of last week’s episode, when he gets asked to review what it’s like to be happy all the time. This is, of course, patently absurd, but that’s never stopped Forrest before. As such, he becomes “happy” all the time, which is mostly him acting like he’s happy all the time. Oh, sure, he plays the part with his merry pink parasol and cotton candy, but, since we are aware of his narration, we know he’s dying inside.
This comes to a head when Suzanne shows up and says she wants to take away all of Forrest’s visitation rights to his son. This is, of course, heartbreaking to Forrest, but since he’s mister happy all the time, at least for now, he goes along with glee. Glee which is, naturally, disconcerting to Suzanne. It’s the blitheness of Forrest McNeil in the face of everything taken to the extreme. Then the cops show up, to arrest Forrest for murder, and yet, even then, he keeps up his happy façade.
Funnily, and tragically, enough, prison actually seems like something of a respite for Forrest. That is, until Grant shows up, and Forrest notices the cameras, and Forrest realizes that Grant isn’t there to bail him out, but to continue the show. As was the case when killing somebody came up, Forrest is incredulous, but Grant is able to manipulate him again with the promise of great television. You could make the argument that Grant is the villain of Review, but that wouldn’t be an accurate statement. Oh, he’s villainous, but he’s no antagonist, no force of evil visiting terror upon his victims. Forrest is just as culpable for everything he does. Grant is more the devil on his shoulder, and Forrest lacks an angel.
So yes, we get to see Forrest doing his show in prison, and yes, it’s great. Seeing perky A.J. doing her job whilst sitting in the visitation room of the prison never stops being funny. Forrest is asked what it is like to be in a pillow fight, which, given the current context of a prison, provides some amusement. It’s a guards vs. prisoners fight, and the prisoners put weights in their pillow cases and a prison riot breaks out. Forrest gets his nose broken. That’s about it. It’s a short little bit of business that just gets to the point and gets out. Forrest gives his star rating using stars drawn on toilet paper. A.J. makes the show’s sound effects herself, which is delightful every time.
A lot of the episode is dedicated to the third topic, having an imaginary friend. This starts off as you would expect, with Forrest looking weird talking to his imaginary friend Clovers. Then, an inmate played by Ian Roberts starts fighting Forrest for control of Clovers. It gets weird. It’s kind of funny, even if they can’t quite nail the tone perfectly so it always feels a tinge off. Forrest’s dad comes to bail him out, but also walks through all the insanity that Forrest has visited upon him during the season, and he walks away for good. Oh, also Clovers is shivved to death.
Despite the episode title, Forrest’s life is clearly worse than it was last week. He keeps sinking to new lows as we head toward the season finale. He’s got a lot on his plate. Most notably, a murder trial. His father is gone. His ex-wife and his son is gone. Forrest has nobody, except the staff of his show, which is worse than having nobody. Except for maybe A.J. She’s always so chipper. Forrest could really use that sort of positive influence in his life. Then again, if they were really to interact outside the show, presumably Forrest would just pull her down to his level. That tends to be how it goes, but is there even a lower level for Forrest to fall to now?
Chris Morgan is not the author of THE book on Mystery Science Theater 3000, but he is the author of A book on Mystery Science Theater 3000. He’s also on Twitter.