After a disappointing “Celery” episode last week, IFC’s Portlandia bounces back with the not-so-subtly titled, “Pull Out King.” The episode brings back the rock stars, harkening back to Season 1 episodes that featured Aimee Mann, Colin Meloy, James Mercer, among others. Reading like a Lollapalooza lineup, “Pull Out King” includes appearances by Jello Biafra (Dead Kennedys), Annie Clark (St. Vincent), Duff McKagan (Guns N’ Roses) and Kim Gordon (Sonic Youth). And while none of them should give up their day jobs, it’s still fun to watch the rockers acting out of their element.
The episode’s best sketch showcases the majority of the non-actors as they try to stage an intervention—with a twist. The scene opens with Carrie arriving at a nondescript office building to meet with Sean Davis (Mark Proksch), who’s on the phone. “This could take awhile,” he mouths to her. In the next shot, they’re making out at his desk while he’s still on the phone. Turns out that Carrie has a new guy who’s neither a musician or a hipster: He’s a tax lawyer.
Carrie’s turned on by his passion for adding machines, numbers and tax forms as well as his dinner suggestions for places like the Hard Rock Cafe in Portland. But their relationship hits a snag when Sean surprises Carrie one morning by donning a fedora and wielding a bass guitar. She thinks about dumping him: “This is a slippery slope. A bass is a gateway instrument.”
Fred and Carrie assemble their musician friends together to talk sense into Sean. Clark steals this scene when she explains that she loved Lauryn Hill when she was a kid. “Where is she right now?” she asks. “In jail. For tax evasion. You think she had a good tax lawyer? ... He’s probably playing bass in her band right now.” The Freaky Friday-esque premise of turning tax stars into rock stars was both fresh and surprising. (Now we can’t wait to see Portandia take on the companion segment—rockers going corporate.)
The episode mixes no metaphors when it comes to the “Pull Out King.” Laying claim to that throne is motorcycle boy Lance (Brownstein), who makes his first appearance this season. He’s in denial that he’s knocked up Nina (Armisen). “I’m the pull out king,” Lance says. “I don’t get anyone pregnant.”
While we we’ve never been huge fans of Lance’s, we couldn’t keep a straight face when Brownstein, as a man, boasts about Lance’s “pulling out” prowess: “You don’t know when I’m in or when I’m out. I’m that good.”
During another segment, a group of stay-at-home dads invites Lance to join their “braid train” as they do each others’ hair. An angry Lance responds, “Looks like a circle jerk to me!” He gets even more heated as he spies a commercial for someone else claiming to be the “Pull Out King.” He heads to a furniture store to confront the convertible sofa sales champ, wonderfully downplayed by regular guest Jeff Goldblum. (The Pull Out King commercial starring Goldblum imitates perfectly the cheesiness and low-production value of late-night advertising. It’s hysterical.)
Of course, not all the sketches worked. The “Pet Haven” commercials running throughout the season are filled with unfunny bits and dialogue, and they just have to stop. And Biafra’s turn as a patient in a coma since 1986, who discovers that yuppies have been replaced by foodies and yogis, was uninspiring.
The Garrison Keillor tailgate party sketch outside of a stadium started off strongly with humorous riffs on Terry Gross, Old Crow Medicine Show and yerba mate that any self-respecting NPR listener could appreciate. But just like Keillor’s A Prairie Home Companion show on weekends, the tailgate sketch ran on for too long.
Christine N. Ziemba is a Los Angeles-based freelance pop culture writer and regular contributor to Paste. You can follow her on Twitter.