“Get a Job” doesn’t jive with the series’s first three episodes, as if you could watch this one without having seen the others.. It’s a little ruder and its sense of (its own) logic is off. Bruce hogs the show. Even when the supporting cast gets a sneeze of screen time, it’s his poor mood we focus on. He’s been jobless, but now he’s moneyless. This is the first leap. His money’s vanished. The second leap is his response: harassment. This isn’t the Bruce we’ve seen. Emma and the rest of the Wiiks can’t balance him out. They’re more of a sly thumbing: What’s with this guy? Even the delightful Hassan and Albasim’s dime-turning tenors aren’t enough to prevent this from being all about Bruce.
A café turns him and his declined card away. Food service workers fear these moments because of reactions like the one Bruce gives. He borderline causes a scene, demanding re-swipes and tab policies. “I come here every day,” he whines through pastry cream. He owes pocket change. If the title credits don’t come when they do, someone in the restaurant surely would’ve done every other set of ears a favor and thrown some mercy crowns at him. Reliving the injustice later for Hassan, he concedes he needs to find work. Hassan tells him about a local temp service and a cousin of his who cleans toilets. Bruce is a fan of the former. “You shouldn’t do any job,” he tells Hassan. “What did your cousin do in Iraq?” Hassan doesn’t see the conflict: “He was a toilet cleaner.”
“Get a Job” isn’t Poehler’s first foray into Americanism. Hassan was the counterweight for the first go too—he and his limbless children. This time, there’s less vitriol. Bruce name-drops NYU, his alma mater, and Hassan recoils as if he just walked through Bruce’s fart cloud. Bruce crop dusts him with entitlement. How could such a thankless job satisfy Hassan’s cousin? Where’s the purpose? Bruce was a New York accountant and a beneficiary of all that the profession brings. Moreover, he was a celebrity accountant. Pop culture has consequential pull, but its trans fattier brand-name cousin, fame, leaves more craving. He’s used to being sought after. It takes him the entire episode to realize people seek out toilet cleaners too.
His conversation with Hassan sparks his job hunt. For a moment, Bruce’s gloating finds an eager recipient. The temp agent looks over Bruce’s resume like the contents of the lost ark—his face melting, too, when Bruce rejects any accounting job. Here’s another shmuck, his loose cheeks and agape mouth say. Before Bruce can try on any of the shmuck hats, he needs a license. “I have one”—he holds up his American ID. Why buy Swedish when you already have American?
Thus begins his downfall. He can’t drive a stick, and his strategy of assuming Swedish streets are transplanted New York ones sends poor helpful Hassan onto the pacemaker shortlist. Gene Simmons, this week’s former client, spots him wearing a sweatsuit after hitting on Emma. Who knows how much Simmons caricaturizes that gruff groove? In “Get a Job”, no one would blame Emma. (Yes, we would.) There’s a scene where he’s wearing an apron that makes me second-guess wearing mine. When his language barrier finally presents an advantage, he barfs all over the side of the tourist guide boat.
It’s not just that he’s bad at these toiler cleaner sorts of jobs. They require something of him he isn’t capable of giving. Seasickness or manual driving be damned: a skill’s a skill and it takes work to acquire it. He’s no longer looking for someone to acknowledge that his English is “just good.” The luster of his New York Times crossword conquering has rusted. He has a skill, and though it pays more, he’d swap an accounting prospect with Hassan’s cousin. This idea of a dream as a parallel between inspiration and cashflow needs a tweak. At first it’s the inspiration. But when Hassan thanks Bruce for getting him fired from his taxi job, Bruce turns on his inner capitalist. It may be an episode that gives you little in terms of progression, but it showcases Welcome to Sweden ideology: starting fresh is more than a new job title.
Kyle Burton is a freelance critic and an inaugural recipient of Indiewire and Sundance’s Roger Ebert Fellowship. You can follow him on Twitter.