Broad City Season 4 Episode 4: A Total Trip

Broad City this week takes us on a literal trip with Abbi and Ilana. After the characters eat mushrooms, the show turns animated for several minutes, mirroring the colorful, illogical experience of a psychedelic trip. When the women have to sober up—but can’t—an Abbi-Ilana-specific comedy of errors ensues.

It’s a classic stoner episode of the show, highlighting the actresses at their funniest—high and awkward—and folding in some new experimental elements.

The episode begins, naturally, with Abbi and Ilana eating psychedelic mushrooms. After the ‘shrooms take hold, they’re rendered into animated versions of themselves. First, cartoon Abbi and Ilana are walking through a live-action backdrop of Brooklyn, amidst actual people. But soon their entire universe becomes colorfully animated.

This sequence does a great job at capturing the funniest things about people on psychedelic drugs: the breathless nature of moving from one topic to another, completely unrelated topic; the tendency to wax poetically on universal themes in a way that feels more profound than it actually is (Cartoon Ilana: “Love is cool. It’s just cool!” Cartoon Abbi: “Love is cool. It’s like, the cure.”); the paranoia that can creep in from seemingly out of nowhere. The animation itself—done by Brooklyn-based artist Mike Perry, who also does the title sequences for the show—is quirky and inventive, with traffic tunnels turned into Technicolor rabbit holes that the animated characters fall though, and cityscapes transformed into magical lagoons populated with rainbows, purple people, and flying watermelons.

One could make the argument that the animated section goes on for a bit too long—it mirrors and parodies the directionless arc of a trip accurately, but perhaps not appropriately for the kind of economy that’s needed in a 23-minute sitcom. Nonetheless, it’s cool to see Jacobson and Glazer working in a new medium, and it’s encouraging that they’re given the freedom to do so. (Animation aficionados might have many more intelligent things to say about the way the form is utilized here, but I am unfortunately not one of them.)

Cartoon Abbi is snapped back to reality when her boss, Dara (Wanda Sykes), calls her and asks for a favor: She needs one hundred macarons for her wife’s birthday, delivered to her house within the next hour. It’s a high person’s nightmare: You’re fully enmeshed in psychedelic la la land, where no responsibilities are expected of you, and then you have to reenter reality while acting as sober as possible. Not to mention: Abbi’s pretty new to this job, and still desperately trying to impress Dara.

They arrive at the party doing their best to act like normal humans, though they have some difficulty with it. (Even though the actresses are back as the live-action versions of themselves, their eyes are still animated and bulging out of their heads.) Abbi high while trying to act sober is one of her best schticks—she’s such a people pleaser that she still tries incredibly hard to talk and be likeable, rather than keep her head down and fly under the radar. Though Dara can tell the two of them are acting strange, she’s apparently not too concerned, and invites them to stay at the party.

Ilana locks eyes across the room with an attractive woman (Alysia Reiner), who invites Ilana who have a threesome with her and her equally attractive male partner (Eddie Liu). Meanwhile, Dara approaches Abbi, who is fastidiously arranging macarons in the kitchen, and asks her if she’d like to talk about doing more creative assignments at work. These are dream scenarios for both Ilana and Abbi, and they reconvene in Dara’s office to discuss.

Floating on the good fortune of their night, and deciding that their trips are beginning to wear off, they overenthusiastically smoke some weed to keep themselves going (and “replenish their serotonin,” as Ilana suggests). They go overboard and soon they are, of course, too high. The cumulative effect of the ‘shrooms and the weed together results in an even more intense trip that neither of them can handle.

Ilana returns home with the couple who propositioned her and finds herself too high to be able to perform. While talking herself up into the bathroom mirror, à la Isa in Insecure, an animated Lincoln (Hannibal Buress) appears on the head of a toothbrush and starts conversing with real-life Ilana. When she reenters the bedroom, the woman hands Ilana a strap-on. Ilana again tries to talk herself into the threesome, but animated Lincoln has followed her in here. She can’t seem to stop thinking about him, and excuses herself once more. By the time she’s strapped and ready, the couple is sitting in their bathrobes, drinking tea. She took too long, and they’re over it.

broad city season 4 episode 4 abbi

Meanwhile, Abbi is wigging out and hiding in Dara’s office until her high subsides. She lets out Dara’s mewling cat, of whom Dara has framed pictures in both her home and office. She gives herself a pep talk and tries to go back into the party, but finds that she’s locked into the office (or so she thinks). Her trip starts getting worse, with disturbing images and cat shrieks filling her head (even though she tries to counteract them with thoughts of Oprah, Mark Ruffalo, and pugs—relatable), and she curls up into a ball on the floor, willing it to pass. Dara finally knocks and enters the office, which Abbi opens by simply unlocking the door.

Abbi confesses that she’s having a bad trip, and Dara is fine with it—she did call Abbi on a weekend, after all—and in fact becomes Abbi’s guide, talking her through the high and having Abbi repeat after her, “This too shall pass.” Dara then opens the back door for some fresh air, and her cat flops, dead, onto the floor. “Amanda!” she cries, holding her dead cat in her arms. Turns out that the mewling Abbi was hearing was Amanda stuck in the door. “This too shall pass!” Abbi tries; “This too shall not fucking pass,” Dara responds, and fires Abbi.

The next day, wearing a sweatshirt that says “Jew-ish” (which I must find), Ilana smokes some more pot and goes on a Lincoln social media binge. She clicks through pictures of him with his new girlfriend, even though she knows it’s misguided—an experience some of us may know well. Then she unfollows and unfriends him on every social media platform (including Jewdeal) and screams into the void. Pan out—Abbi is sitting right next to her. “That was also the sound the cat made, as she died slowly.”

This is a fun, old-school stoner episode of Broad City. Most of the humor doesn’t come from one-liners but from the physicality of the actresses: facial expressions, reactions, the ways Abbi and Ilana try to slap themselves back to reality, sometimes literally (Ilana actually punches herself in the boobs in order to try to get pumped for the threesome). There’s something inherently funny in these two being high but psyching themselves up to act sober. Though the animation portion could have probably been shortened, it’s fun to see Jacobson and Glazer experimenting—hopefully a trend that will continue as the season does.

Photos courtesy of Comedy Central

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