CHOZEN: Love and Bottle Rockets, review

Goats are funny. They are always funny. Flaming goats even more so.

When Tracy suspects her boyfriend is cheating on her, Chozen takes it upon himself to defend his sister’s honor. Sort of. A more diplomatic approach fails, so Chozen and the boys opt for a midnight scare tactic which ultimately results in some accidental arson, unintentional hate crimes, and a flaming goat.

No, that’s not prison lingo for some kind of sex act. There is literally a goat on fire.

Love is the theme of the episode, with possibly the most pathetic love triangle of all time forming between Tracy and two of Chozen’s friends, longtime buddy Ricky and techie whiz Troy, neither of whom seem to have a chance with her. There’s also talk of Crisco’s girlfriend. Most notably, we are treated to the introduction of Hunter, a frat boy and potential love interest for our anti-hero.

Notably absent from the episode is Phantasm (who is obviously in love with himself), though Ricky takes a moment to deface a poster of him. Phantasm, it appears, will be a recurring presence, definitely pivotal to the ongoing story of Chozen’s revenge/redemption but not the antagonist of every episode.

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“Love and Bottlerockets” plays with a lot of racial humor, its satire is successful because it’s a send-up of ignorance rather than a reinforcement. Early in the episode, Chozen, Crisco, and Ricky play a gig for an Asian audience. Their lyrics are shamelessly racist, to say nothing of Jimmy, who stands among them, dressed in a Chinese dragon costume, babbling all kinds of pseudo-Chinese gibberish. My eyes were ready for a good roll, because once again, where other minorities are treated with at least some degree of sensitivity, it was open season on Asian people. You can imagine my delight when the camera was turned on the audience to show that they are horrified, doubly so because they’re not even Chinese; the event is for The Phillippines Family Association. All the while, though, it’s made clear that the boys’ racist actions are coming from a place of immaturity and insensitivity but not hostility; they’re dumb-asses, not hatemongers, and the show is clearly siding with the horrified audience.

Later in the episode, when Chozen and the boys break into the frat house, their disguises bear a striking resemblance to KKK robes (though Ricky’s robes are brown and Crisco’s are black). Minutes earlier, Crisco’s relationship with his well-to-do white girlfriend is likened to a mistress and her house boy, and before the joke goes full throttle, Jimmy (who, notably, is white) checks Chozen for calling Crisco a houseboy… at least until he learns his girlfriend is white, and then he dishes it out even worse by doing a quick little Stepin Fetchit bit. Even then, Crisco end up getting the last laugh.

Bottom line, the success of the comedy is in its intent; we’re meant to be laughing at the ignorance of these guys, not with it.

And again, I have to praise the show’s depiction of Chozen’s own sexuality, which flips the script of the traditional male sex fantasy (being an irresistible stud who takes control of the situation, commanding respect and attention) by making men the sex objects rather than women. Chozen catches two white collar closet cases about to get down in a gas station bathroom stall, and not only does he bust in and take the reins, he rocks their worlds so thoroughly that next we see them, they’re running after him in broad daylight, begging him to come back. Later on, we find Hunter, who is willing to bend over backwards (perhaps literally) to get Chozen back in the sack despite how crappily Chozen treats him. Is it a double-standard that I’d be rolling my eyes if women were the targets of Chozen’s narcissism? Absolutely, but that’s exactly why it gets a pass; it would be offensive and sad if it weren’t so refreshing.

All that said, this episode is mercurial at best. When it flies, it soars, but when the jokes fall flat, the crickets can be heard for miles. It’s not that it tries too hard, which it very easily could, but rather that entire scenes are just not very funny. It seems a certain amount of comedy is supposed to be coming the characters’ accents or appearances alone, and it just doesn’t work. The success of the writing seems to be in how smart it’s willing to be. When it goes for the true satire, the inversion of tropes, or even the occasional spot of genuine emotion, it hits its sweet spot. However, when it veers toward the tried and true, either in its Archer roots or just general stereotypes and gags, it misses by a mile.

Except when a flaming goat runs across the screen, bleating its little heart out in terror. Because goats are always funny. Always.

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3 out of 5