Finally, finally, finally! All season of Broad City, it has felt as if Ilana Glazer and Abbi Jacobson have been finding their footing, toggling between trying to be politically salient while also making good jokes. It’s been rare that they’ve been able to do both in a single episode this season—until now. This week’s “Florida” is rooted in a staunchly anti-MAGA plot, confronting race and gun control brilliantly, while also managing to be warm, deeply funny, and Jewish as hell.
The episode, which was directed by Glazer, does a fantastic job of lampooning the mostly Jewish-populated Florida retirement communities, a world which the show’s creators seem quite familiar with. At first it appears that this episode might only be a sliver of life with the Wexler family, which is hysterical in itself (like when Ilana and her mom hunted for knock-off bags in Chinatown, or when Ilana’s mom convinced her dad to buy a dildo so she could peg him).
But in 2017, Florida is Tr*mp country, and the episode makes a particularly important assertion about white privilege and racial hierarchy: While Jews share a long history of persecution — along with a rich culture and sense of humor so delightfully represented here — they also reap the privileges of being white. When away from New York, white girls like Abbi and Ilana are surrounded by the Tr*mp voters who populate red country, and thus are privy to the racist rhetoric that has been so much more allowable under our current administration.
Abbi and the Wexlers — Ilana, Eliot, and their mom, Bobbi (the fabulous Susie Essman) — are in Boca to cleaning Bobbi’s late mother’s condo. (“Welcome to Florida,” Bobbi says. “America’s droopy dick.”) They’re greeted outside of the building by a tiny elderly woman pointing a gun at them. “It’s called ‘stand your ground,’ snowflakes,” she proclaims, which had me shrieking with a mix of laughter and disgust.
We knew that Fran Drescher was going to appear some point this season, and here she is, in all her glory. She’s playing Bobbi’s sister, Beverly, and she looks, as Ilana puts it, “ja-maa-zing.” The chemistry between Essman and Drescher is also ja-maa-zing; both New York Jews, it feels like they’re actually sisters, riffing about nail colors, Hamilton tickets (“Cheryl’s niece is dating an usher who could slip us through the garbage chute, but we had to be ready at any moment!”), and bickering, at a fever pitch, about divvying up their mom’s stuff.
The kids decide to leave the sisters to their cleaning and head to the pool, although Eliot has to wear his grandmother’s bathing suit bottoms because the airline lost his luggage. Abbi and Ilana are loving the warm weather, which is so much healthier for them than New York, where it’s currently four degrees. A woman in a motorized wheelchair approaches Ilana, who introduces herself as the late Esther Baumgarten’s granddaughter. “You’re the one dating the gangster dentist,” the woman says, referring to Lincoln, the episode’s first nod towards the racism that seems to permeate this retirement community.
As they walk around the grounds, their hair at maximum frizz, Abbi and Ilana realize they could really get used to this place. They pick oranges from a tree (“real fruit that hasn’t been licked by a bodega cat”), and discuss how calm they feel outside of the city, not anxious at every turn (not withstanding the elderly women strolling past them now with assault rifles). As if their prayers are being answered, they pass an open house sign for a condo in the community, and decide to stop in the next day.
The place is huge, at least for New York standards (“the kitchen is its own room!”), and it’s only $425 a month. Abbi and Ilana are technically under the age minimum — you have to normally be over 55 to rent in this retirement community — but Ilana is a Darlington Lakes Legacy. There’s only one other couple that’s interested, and they’re in the right age range. The camera then pans to an older black couple looking over paperwork. You see where this is going.
Abbi and Ilana task themselves with impressing current members of the retirement community, since they have to be approved by the board in order to get the apartment. Thus follows a sequence of the two of them schmoozing with elderly Jews, something that comes to them seamlessly: officiating tennis games, polishing guns, joining dance circles in the rec hall (Ilana dancing in drag as an old Jewish man is one of the funniest images of the season).
While powerwalking around the manmade pond, feeling positive about their prospects, Abbi and Ilana look up to see “MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN” in skywriting. They consider the fact that if they move here, they’ll be living in Tr*mp land. But then Ilana gets a text from Jaimé; their pipes back in New York have simultaneously frozen and burst. Abbi and Ilana reason that their votes will matter even more here, and they double down on their mission.
They show up at the coop meeting with gherkins and butterscotch candies for everyone, ready to hear the decision about the apartment. The board — who appear to be WASP-ier than the other tenants we’ve seen — confer for literally no time at all, and congratulate Ilana and Abbi on being the newest residents of Darlington Lake. The two of them are overcome with excitement.
“Well,” the coop president responds, “we’d rather have two young Jewish d*kes than a couple of n**gers.”
Zoom in on Abbi and Ilana’s shocked, distraught faces, while the rest of the room applauds.
They run from the meeting as fast as they can, Abbi throwing a gun into the pond (“I can’t believe that came with the apartment!”). They hide in the bathroom and smoke weed to regroup and to calm themselves down (“even the type of fish salad they like is white,” Abbi observes). They realize that the only non-white people they’ve seen all week have been cleaners, gardeners, and ambulance drivers; New York might be a tough place to live, but “at least it’s not a white supremacist’s wet dream.”
Bobbi walks into the bathroom, but rather than confiscating the pot, joins in on the fun. With Eliot and Beverly, the five of them sit around the kitchen table sharing the joint, Bobbi and Beverly regaling the younger ones with stories about their teenage years. Beverly tells the story of losing her virginity to Neil Friedman, the kid with the scoliosis brace: “I was so petrified I was gonna wake all of yous up because it kept banging against the headboard.” Then Drescher lets out her famous whine-laugh, which puts the rest of them in stitches.
Essman and Drescher get lots of screen time throughout the subplot of this episode, arguing over their mom’s engagement ring, with amazing jokes and deliveries at every turn (a favorite is when Beverly tells Bobbi that if she’s going to be so possessive, she shouldn’t come to Sandals this year, followed by Bobbi’s deeply distraught reaction at the prospect of losing her “Sandals vaycay”). Glazer and Jacobson know how to pay respect to the women who came before them, and this episode feels partially like an homage to the two of them, who paved the way for the next generation of Jewish comediennes.
Now stoned, Bobbi shares something she saw on Facebook that day: Lincoln changed his status to “single.” Ilana is rendered, perhaps for the first time, speechless. The next day, Abbi and Ilana drive back to New York in Grandma Esther’s Cadillac, pulling up in front of Lincoln’s apartment (he is, during what seems to be the middle of the day, eating popcorn and drinking red wine while watching Scandal). He gets a text from Ilana and goes outside to find a suitcase with Ilana’s curls peeking through the top of it. He pulls her out of the improbably small carry-on and asks if she wants to come inside, which had me squealing with delight. This Ilana-Lincoln is particularly excited at the prospect of the two of them getting back together.
What makes this episode so clever — and important — is that Glazer and Jacobson are simultaneously celebrating Jewish culture while also criticizing those of us who are not serving as allies to people of color. While it should be a lesson to all white people, Glazer and Jacobson assert that Jews are not immune to being perpetrators of racism, and that perhaps we have a particular responsibility, as historically persecuted people ourselves, to do better.
I should note that Jewish viewers in particular may be split in opinions on this one. My boyfriend, a Jew from Miami, argued that this episode did more harm than good, because while Jews should indeed be a “light unto the nations,” so many already are – in fact, so many Jews of this age were civil rights advocates during the movement. What good comes from this kind of misdirection, especially when representing a dying generation?
All that being said, we know that not all elderly Jews in Florida are racist, and I think this episode did what Broad City always does best: exaggerated the hell out of our current cultural climate with humor and aplomb.
Mandy Berman is the author of Perennials. She received an MFA in Writing from Columbia University and teaches writing at the College of Staten Island. She lives in Brooklyn, where she is working on her second novel. Follow her on Twitter @mandyberman.