What I forgot to mention in the warning is that this South Park review isn’t actually happening. There is no real person typing these words, just a computer program. The people around you, wherever you may think you’re reading this, do not exist. They are simply images, generated by a series of ones and zeros.
In this alternate reality, an episode of South Park “aired.” You’re going to have to trust me on this. I know this all might sound confusing, but the episode really did happen. I can prove it: Cartman tricks Butters, sending him on a wild adventure that ends with Butters getting grounded.
Sounds pretty typical right?
Before we could even point out that we’ve been down this road with Cartman and Butters X amount of times, “Grounded Vindaloop” kicks into another dimension. In a season that will be remembered for its callbacks, Matt Stone and Trey Parker gave us the best one of all by telling a character-based story that felt like a homage to the show’s glory days.
Rarely do we recap shows, especially South Park, but this episode was madness:
Cartman tries to trick Butters (It works). Butters gets stabbed by a hooker (What else is new?). Mrs. Cartman finds Eric in his room, passed out with real Oculus glasses on (we can assume this is reality and everything preceding it therefore didn’t happen). Then Cartman gets a call from Steve the Oculus guy who says Cartman is the one in a virtual reality (OK, this all makes sense so far). Cartman then pays a visit to Butters warning him that they’re in a virtual reality. Butters then calls Kyle to him that he’s been grounded and he doesn’t know why. The boys visit Cartman’s room only to find him in Oculus glasses passed out. Kyle calls Steve the Oculus guy. Steve asks about customer service. Kyle doesn’t care. Steve says there’s been a “total recall” of the headsets and Kyle will have to go into the virtual reality to wake Cartman up. End scene.
Kyle (in what we can assume is an alternate reality after he puts on the headset) pays a visit to Cartman. Cartman says he was the one sent to convince him it was real (Confusion sets in). They call customer service. It’s getting weird. Now Kenny is in the Oculus and Kyle suggests they’ve all been taking turns with the headset from the beginning. That isn’t the case because Cartman says he’s sure he’s a computer. They’re all stuck in a Customer Service “Vindaloop” as they call it in India. Steve the Oculus guy tells them that Butters first called customer service. They find a grounded Butters who says they’ve been taking turns with the Oculus and he went too far with it (safe to assume he was actually stabbed by a hooker). Steve the Oculus guy asks if the service is up to par. Stan finally agrees and computer versions of Mr. Stotch, Butters, Cartman, Kyle and Kenny disappear. We find out it has been Stan with the Oculus on the whole time and when he takes off the headset, the scene ends with the boys as live-action characters.
Matt and Trey seem to find some of their best inspiration from the video game world. The Nintendo Wii, Okama Gamesphere, PSP, Xbox One and PS4 all brought us crazy adventures. Those are some of the classic episodes in South Park’s canon and “Grounded Vindaloop” fits the mold. The Oculus Rift–a virtual reality headset with 3D gaming capability–is a real product in development and is currently on pre-order. South Park bends the means of the Oculus as a way to enter broader virtual reality — melding the trippy storytelling of Inception with the rules of Total Recall and The Matrix. If somewhere along the way you drifted off into an Inception-like trance, I don’t blame you. South Park took a winding road to find a funny, gratifying end.
Some small gags, the “fuck youuu”’s, Steve the Oculus guy from India and Butters’ Grand Theft Auto rampage, kept us laughing as the plot twists built up to one monumental joke — that the South Park we’ve come to know through construction paper and later computer animation is the virtual world.
Maybe the science wasn’t perfect, but they didn’t get too lost in their own on-the-fly mythology that has grounded many of their higher-concept (or far-fetched) episodes. And you have to respect the dedication to get one, long meta joke across. I absolutely loved it. For a show that has become so reliant on being topical each week, an episode like this goes a long way to show that no matter the misstep–like the previous two mediocre episodes–Matt and Trey can get back to what they’ve done best for 18 seasons.
Feeling Good On a Wednesday:
While Randy as Lorde was absent, in a small way they salvaged some of the continuity– a trademark of this season–by using a live-action scene for the second week in a row if you recall last week’s excellent live action beer commercial. Steve the Oculus guy was reminiscent of the security operators from “Insecurity” and a character I hope we see again this season or later down the road.
Prediction for Next Week:
I saw a comment from a South Park reddit user saying the ending of “Grounded Vindaloop” could have been the perfect ending for the series. I agree. I’ve wanted to see a live-action episode ever since they toyed with it in “I Should Have Never Gone Ziplining,” one of my favorite episodes of the past five seasons. The ultimate joke of this season’s continuity would be for them to come back with a full-live action episode. It would be the greatest early Christmas present of all.