Outnumbered series 5 episode 5 review: The Chinese Horde

Review Patrick Sproull
26 Feb 2014 - 21:30

The penultimate episode of Outnumbered continues series five's winning streak. Here's Patrick's review...

This review contains spoilers.

5.5 The Chinese Horde

It’s curious – and a bit of a shame – that all the classic episodes of Outnumbered I’ve mentioned in past reviews have always been ‘the one that’s not in the house’. Each series of the sitcom has contained a trip out of the Brockman residence, be it a shopping centre (series four’s The Girls’ Day Out), London town itself (series three’s The Family Outing) or a church (series two’s The Wedding and series four’s The Funeral) and The Chinese Horde is series five’s. And what an absolute joy it is.

Everything got going rather quickly with Pete uttering his own death warrant: “just leave it all to me!” Naturally, Karen got kept behind at school, Ben got misplaced and Jake got stuck sans basic necessities. What happened after this was an uproarious gallimaufry, a fast-paced delight and a testament to how modern sitcoms should be.

Undoubtedly the funniest strand in tonight’s Outnumbered was Karen’s although it wasn’t the tweenager who was necessarily the amusing part. Karen was the foil for Mrs Raynott (The Thick of It’s Rebecca Front, absolutely stealing the show), her headmistress who is completely aware of precocious little girls such as Karen. Every line Front delivered had me in stitches from her Roald Dahl rant to asking Karen to ‘file’ her letter to the governors in the bin to her line about Golding’s Lord of the Flies. Oddly, Ramona Marquez had very little to do but be the stooge to Front. Second to Karen’s encounter with her head teacher was Pete himself and his run-in with the garage receptionist then it was Sue fluffing her video conference with a bitingly critical American (Harry Shearer or, as we all know him, a multitude of characters from The Simpsons).

The Brockman boys didn’t do very much despite Ben’s meeting with the Chinese horde (not whores, remember) actually being in the title. It didn’t really rise to anything substantial or especially funny (bar the amusing “My. Name. Is. Lee” conversation toward the beginning) and the same can be said for Jake who spent a large amount of the time at a bus stop then he vanished and reappeared at the end. Ben and Jake’s storylines were sandwiched by Pete, Sue and Karen’s, meaning I was laughing constantly (I never really stopped until the 28 minute mark).

What is rather unfortunate about The Chinese Horde is that a lot of the jokes weren’t delivered by the main characters. Sue and Pete were the only ones that had some decent and memorable one-liners (“burn in hell, you nosey old cow”) because the kids either didn’t appear onscreen for long enough to actually say anything funny or they were the butt of others’ jokes.

Nonetheless, there aren’t enough superlatives in the world to describe The Chinese Horde other than it was another wonderful episode of Outnumbered. Series five has tossed aside the ‘kids saying the darnedest things’ shtick and, to put it broadly, grown the children up. Jake is now an adult (although he still manages to lose his money and Oyster card, replacing it all with his dad’s stuff) so there’s no beating about the bush with him, Karen’s still quick-witted (how could such a glorious character trait like that flag?) but since she’s no longer tiny and curly-haired there are more repercussions and Ben is still a danger-prone ragamuffin albeit he’s matured. Next week marks the last episode – although creators Andy Hamilton and Guy Jenkin have expressed enthusiasm in doing a revival episode – and if you’d asked me a month ago I wouldn’t have cared but now I don’t want next week to ever come. Outnumbered, you shall be greatly missed. 

Read Patrick's review of the previous episode, The Gap Year, here.

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