This South Park review contains spoilers.
South Park Season 23 Episode 8
Though South Park’s bread and butter is, and has been for a long time now, satirically skewering current issues and recent trends, when they take a break for pure, unadulterated stupidity, without worrying about imparting any sort of moral at the end, the results are often better. “Turd Burglars” showcases some of the basic, most old-school South Park gross-out stupidity in recent memory and it’s… well, it’s certainly better than their recent stabs at saying something about immigration, China, or trans issues.
However, it is important to note that this episode, in which Shelia Broflovski contracts a C. diff infection and has to receive a fecal transplant in order to balance her microbiomes, technically, sort of, is addressing a current event after all. The idea of a fecal transplant sounds exactly like some gross nonsense South Park would make up, but no! Google it and you’ll find it’s for real! Not only that, the escalation of this episode’s conflict, in which the ladies of South Park almost die from bad germs internalized from fecal transplants, has some real-world influence.
Mind you, only one person has died from a fecal transplant in real life and it was back in June, so to suggest that “Turd Burglars” is commenting on a real, current trend would hardly be accurate. My guess is someone on the South Park crew found out about fecal transplants and it wasn’t long before they all decided this had to be an episode. Like I said, it sounds like something Trey and Matt would make up.
Well, they took the concept and ran with it, in typically disgusting South Park fashion. With crap and vomit spraying regularly, a scene where Kyle’s mom’s shit plops into a bucket, a lovingly long shot of a turd floating in a toilet, a turd in a blender, and—for the coup de grace—an image of a doctor inserting a poop-filled syringe into a woman’s backside, this genuinely might be the grossest South Park I have ever seen (and I’ve seen every episode). It is, if nothing else, the nastiest episode I can recall seeing in a long while.
Of course, it’s familiar South Park territory, especially recalling season four’s “Cartman Joins NAMBLA,” which memorably featured Kenny’s dad uncontrollably puking and shitting. However, that was less graphic (you never actually saw the poop). I can be a big fan of toilet humor, dependent on how it’s done (for example, Rick and Morty recently had an episode that was one big poop joke and I believe it was the best of the season so far), but, though your results may vary, it seemed to me all the flying vomit and fecal matter in this episode was designed to push the viewer’s gross-out limits, rather than actually illicit laughter. I certainly reacted to it (I said “ugh” several times) but it’s tough to call it actually funny.
There were some laughs in a few other places in “Turd Burglars,” however. The diagram the doctor shows Kyle that has an arrow pointing to “Your Mom’s Vagina” was good as was the instructional DVD “So Your Mom had a Fecal Transplant,” featuring footage of a hummingbird for no reason. I also chuckled at the line “What have those rascally ladies done?” and, must acknowledge that Kyle saying “I’m gonna trust my gut a little more” is a perfect line, though not particularly funny.
Beyond the pooping and puking, “Turd Burglars” feels like quintessential South Park in other ways too. Like in past episodes, the kids have an obsession with a recently released, real-world video game (Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order), there’s a running gag that’s a an old sci-fi movie reference (the Spice Melange, from Dune), and they even roped Tom Brady into the proceedings again.
It’s not a particularly bad episode. In fact, in what has been a largely boring, unfunny season, it’s probably the best one so far. Still, in the end, like so many South Park episodes, how much you enjoy yourself will depend on how much you’re into the running gags that get repeated again and again throughout. In this case, those gags are a Dune reference and women puking and shitting a lot. For me, this stuff had diminishing returns. I’d rate “Turd Burglars” somewhere between “meh” and “fine.”
Joe Matar watches a lot of cartoons and a lot of sitcoms. He’s obsessed with story structure so that’s what all his reviews are about. Joe also writes about video games on occasion. He has an MA in English if you can believe it. Read more of his work here. Follow Joe on Twitter for more fun @joespirational!