Broad City Asks: Can Jerking Off Save the World?

This week’s episode is a much-needed palate cleanser from the more loaded political episodes of the past two weeks. It feels like a throwback to some of their earlier, only-in-New York episodes — tons of physical comedy, pitch-perfect Ilana one-liners, and lots of Lincoln screen time. This one is about the girls housesitting in a fancy brownstone, where the biggest perk is free laundry.

The house belongs to Heidi (Amy Ryan), the mom of Oliver, who Ilana used to babysit (remember in season two when Ilana and Abbi tried to sell Heidi’s designer clothes to Beacon’s Closet?). They’re going for a retreat to the Hamptons because Oliver, who’s about 9 years old, is really stressed out by standardized testing. The family lives in a palatial brownstone on what appears to be the Upper East Side, and as soon as Oliver and Heidi get in their Uber helicopter (“Uber has cars?!” Heidi asks Ilana in disbelief), Abbi appears from behind the bushes with two giant bags of laundry.

Despite all of the luxuries the brownstone has to offer, nothing is more luxurious than the on-site washer/dryer — something any New Yorker can relate to (just this past weekend I went home to the suburbs and brought no less than 40 pounds of laundry with me). The bidet, however, comes close, and as Ilana pops a squat while browsing through the electronic settings (“staccato,” “water slide,” “monsoon”), Abbi browses through her Bumble. She lands on the profile of her high school English teacher, Mr. Miller, who she used to have a crush on. Abbi feels like it’s a little creepy, but Ilana convinces her it’s hot (“You must swipe yas, you cannot swipe nas”). They match and message, and Abbi invites Mr. Miller over to the fancy townhouse house for an “adults only soirée.”

bidet ilana broad city

The doorbell rings; it’s Jaimé, also there with his laundry. Jaimé reminds Abbi and Ilana that he had an adult circumcision, which means he can’t get an erection for two more weeks, or else his stitches will tear. But everything in the house is turning Jaimé on: the vibration of the washing machine, and of course the bidet, which he sees as akin to foreplay.

Lincoln arrives next with his load of laundry, followed by Mr. Miller, a.k.a. Richard (Mike Birbiglia!). It turns out that Ilana and Lincoln are dating for real now, and Ilana seems to almost be in physical pain while introducing him as her “boyfriend.” Abbi then introduces Richard to Jaimé, who once again has to leave the situation due to his arousal when he learns that Richard used to be Abbi’s teacher.

Abbi admits to Richard that she used to have a crush on him in high school, to which Richard responds that he had a crush on her, too. The issue is that these things can’t exactly go both ways, and Abbi is suddenly creeped out — and Birbiglia plays creepy, awkward English teacher to its fullest, funniest potential.

She goes upstairs to get advice from Ilana, who tells her that Richard’s crush on her is totally natural, and that “all teachers jerk off to their students.” Ilana asks Abbi if she jerks off to JTT (Jonathan Taylor Thomas), to which Abbi responds, “All the time.” But she’s been jerking off to the teenager version, not the 31-year-old actor. Abbi, too, is guilty of this. “It’s the circle of life,” Ilana says. “Jerking off saves the world.” (This plot was unfortunate timing, perhaps, in light of the recent Louis CK and Roy Moore developments, though Abbi does make the stipulation that “it depends on where you do it,” and Ilana asserts that the teachers are doing the noble thing by jerking off instead of actually sleeping with their students.)

Abbi is emboldened by her conversation with Ilana, and goes downstairs to drink some wine with Richard. Things start getting romantic, and Abbi kisses him. They end up in Oliver’s bedroom, where Jaimé is hiding in the closet, amidst the child’s stuffed animals, the only place in the house he wasn’t turned on. Richard starts dirty talking to Abbi, pretending that she’s 17. Abbi is into it for a while, until he pushes her skin back so she looks younger. Jaimé reveals himself now, corroborating with Abbi that Richard’s fetish did, in fact, become too gross to be sexy.

mike birbiglia broad city

Ilana and Lincoln, meanwhile, are enjoying playing dress-up in the house. While decked out in the silk robes of the homeowners (and may I note that Ilana looks phenomenal throughout this episode), Lincoln accidentally lets out a fart. Ilana tells him not to worry, that farting is part of the “complete relationship package,” followed by a delightfully funny montage of the two of them farting in various acrobatic positions. Unfortunately, things get real pretty quickly when Lincoln lets one out that sounds a bit, shall we say, more substantial. (“That was different from the others,” he admits.) That’s a bit too real for Ilana to handle.

Later, in bed, Ilana and Lincoln are discussing the weekend and realize they both made separate plans for Sunday. “I guess we should do a shared Google calendar,” Ilana assents, which is another step towards relationship death for her. She looks at the bedside table, where there’s a book titled Is Your Relationship Stale? Pan back to Lincoln, who’s wearing old man glasses and reading the paper in bed. Determined to put the spice back into their brand new relationship, Ilana changes into lingerie, but by the time she reenters the room, Lincoln is fast asleep (and farting again). She wakes him up and forces him to talk about their relationship, but Lincoln calms her down, telling her it doesn’t have to be forever. He proposes that they take it one year at a time, “like a phone contract.”

The fire alarm then goes off in the house; after the fire department comes, it turns out that the dryer set fire (it’s a super fancy dryer, “built only to dry satin, silk, or gold-infused fabrics”). Heidi calls — but it’s all good; she had no idea there was a laundry room in the house. Abbi bids goodnight to Richard, but before he leaves for good, she asks him one last question: “Do you jerk off to your students?” “All teachers do,” he replies. “You kind of have to.” He walks away to Simple Minds, “Don’t You (Forget About Me),” fist in the air, à la Judd Nelson in The Breakfast Club.

This in an episode where the supporting cast really shines: Hannibal Burress (Lincoln) and Arturo Castro (Jaimé) are particularly funny, and Jaimé in tears, begging his penis not to have an erection while hiding in a closet behind stuffed animals, is an image I’ll have in my mind for a long time. Mike Birbiglia was also wonderfully creepy and had me giggling throughout.

While the plot of this one was a little bit half-baked, it was a totally enjoyable half-hour, and a really good salve of some non-political fun. Plus, it’s exciting to see Lincoln and Ilana finally together, and how the show deals with Ilana, historically non-monogamous, in a committed relationship. It’s rare we get representations of the female in a relationship being afraid to commit rather than the man, and it’ll be interesting to see how Ilana does as their relationship potentially gets more serious.

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