I still remember Sam Goody. I loved and miss Sam Goody. As archaic and overpriced as that place got in its waning years, I still relied on it—as a culture-hungry young kid in a small(ish) town—to provide me with various gateways to geekery, whether it be a DVD copy of Monty Python and the Holy Grail, used Weird Al Yankovic CDs, or collectable VHS copies of Hitchcock films. As such, it’s safe to say that this week’s opening tribute to both the store and its CD selection brought back some very pleasant memories. It’s certainly all the more pleasant, given that Barry and Erica are viewing the store as a progressive utopia that peddles an exciting new technology called CDs.
The two attempt to hit up Murray for the money to buy a CD player and find their request denied. It doesn’t help that Barry has such a blunt “charm” that basically consists of him walking up to his dad and screaming, “buy us a CD player!” Murray argues, rightfully so, that the kids have gone through numerous interests over the year (wrestling, horse riding, fashion design, etc.) and he doesn’t want to invest in another fad that they will soon abandon.
Not wanting to take no for an answer, the siblings put their heads together and decide to compose an amazing song to convince their father they are serious about their musical pursuits. After some brainstorming, the result is the hilariously awful “Love Ninja,” a song that begins as a watered-down version of “Livin’ on a Prayer” before descending into stanzas about a proverbial ninja (I hope?) that breaks the necks’ of hearts—complete with a rap interlude by Barry’s Big Tasty. It’s about as glorious as it sounds. Further shenanigans ensue, but, of course, Murray eventually comes around and recognizes his daughter’s love for music, after hearing her strumming her guitar. Where he stands on Barry’s musical aptitude is still up in the air.
Overall, it’s a fairly thin, predictable plotline that’s greatly enlivened by what the writers are able to bring to the table in the moments prior to Murray’s inevitable change-of-heart (this marks his third one in three consecutive weeks). First, there’s Barry and Erica writing the aforementioned “Love Ninja” and then performing it for Albert, whose inherently loving and supportive attitude is no match for the sheer absurdity of the song. Then, the two try to get away with performing Elton John’s “Your Song” for Murray in the hopes that he’s so musically illiterate that he would mistake it for an original. Of course, he’s not an idiot and his amused reaction to their half-baked deception is great. Finally, in one of my favorite moments of the episode, the kids end up pulling their resources together and buying a CD player as a “gift” to their dad. Murray immediately catches on to their angle and decrees that they can never use the machine. He further antagonizes Barry by listening to his son’s Public Enemy CD and pretending to jam out. Both Barry’s horrified reaction as well as Murray’s clueless reading of the members’ names (“Terminator Ten?”) makes for perhaps the best moment of the episode.
Meanwhile, Adam finds his birthday bash disrupted when a kid brings a bottle of his father’s home-brewed beer. Just as the young Goldberg is about to take a swig, however, the rest of his party reacts very negatively to the alcohol and starts flying off to different areas to vomit (poor Dave Kim is stuck with the washing machine). As we later learn, the home-brewed beer was mostly mold by that point. Despite not having actually partaken of the beer, Beverly catches Adam with the bottle in his hand. Believing that this friend group is a bad influence, Beverly and the other boys’ parents, collectively forbid their children from hanging out with each other.
Naturally, Adam is discouraged to find his friend group dismantled. That doesn’t stop him from trying to strategize with them via sitting at separate, yet nearby, tables and communicating like spies in a 70s thriller (again, poor Dave Kim—he’s facing away from this gathering and has no idea what’s happening). Adam decides to defy his mother by drinking the beer/mold in front of her, thus showing that he’s not some innocent boy who is being corrupted by his friends. The hail mary works and the parents all decide that they’re better off working together as a united front, rather than forcibly separating their children.
“I Drank the Mold” mostly adheres to the show’s strict formula and, perhaps because we’re reaching the end of the season, it’s wearing on me just a bit at this point. That being said, it’s still a strong entry with enough jokes and gags that help pepper what could, in the wrong hands, have been a fairly bland affair. After all, any Goldbergs episode where Erica sings, Barry raps and Adam tries to break bad (in his own miniscule way) is an essential one in some capacity.
Mark Rozeman is a Los Angeles-based freelance writer and regular contributor to Paste. You can follow him on Twitter.