Looking back at the past episodes of Workaholics written solely by Anders Holm, they all seem sort of mean-spirited at points. For example, with “Fat Cuz,” the guys used Adam’s overweight cousin to use a handicapped parking spot; “Alice Quits” introduced a new boss that forced them to show their penises to him to prove they were men; and in “Best Buds,” well, they fed a food critic a dead skunk burrito filled with maggots.
Unlike last week’s incredibly fun “Front Yard Wrestling,” Holm’s forte isn’t exactly the “feel-good, watch these three hang out and have fun” vibe, but usually more of the “let’s surprise the audience” sort of mindset. Sometimes he tries to surprise them with disgusting moments, but in “Speedo Racer,” his ability to surprise works quite well.
Once again, we are reminded of Ders’s swimming history, as he is invited to the Irvine Central High School alumni swim meet. He refuses to go, since his rival Troy Torpey made fun of him for getting a boner in the shower locker room once and it caught on. However Adam and Blake convince him to go since—as they so eloquently put it—they “crank it to Ders’s yearbook,” and they want to meet the girls that they’ve seen so often.
When they get to the high school, Ders’s enemy is now married to his dream girl Magna and it turns out Blake and Adam have been lusting after the same woman who has absolutely no interest in them.
“Speedo Racer” is at its best when we get those surprises, which involve Ders’s attempt to redeem himself. After being slipped some Viagra, Ders is laughed at again, starts heavily drinking, then attempts to rip off a banner with Troy’s name on it. This leads to Ders falling and crushing an entire trophy case, then the great reveal that an entire trophy has plunged itself into his stomach. Almost any other show, you’d be worried about the person’s safety, but the Workaholics guys are closer to cartoon characters than actual people, so it works more for laughs than danger.
But there’s also a level of sadness to “Speedo Racer,” as we sort of see the desire to be something more from Ders that he’ll likely never reach. Since these three live in an aforementioned cartoon-like universe, where nothing can really happen to them and where every half hour resets all the work done prior, it’s almost as if Ders is trapped in a constant purgatory until the series ends. Or maybe I’m not supposed to think that much about it.
“Speedo Racer” also continues a level of solidarity between the guys that we haven’t seen in quite some time. Instead of fighting over the girl, Adam and Blake both pretend to drown at the same time so they can both receive CPR from her. It’s creepy, but hey, at least they aren’t fighting? After Ders tries to race Troy with an entire trophy in his gut and immediately fails, it’s nice to see the guys watching over him, trying to entertain him and keep his mind off the monotonous hell his life seems to have become. Just focus on the squirrels, Ders.
“Speedo Racer” isn’t as joyous as last week and it’s probably the least funny episode so far this season, but it does focus on the bonds of friendship and cartoonish aspects of these characters that are often strengths for the series, while surprising in some strange and not disgusting ways.
Ross Bonaime is a D.C.-based freelance writer and regular contributor to Paste. You can follow him on Twitter.