It looks to me like The Muppets may have finally smoothed out their formula. Other episodes have been funnier and the previous episode succeeded by having actual energy to play with, but this one feels more complete than any other. They put together three different storylines that have the right balance and for the most part succeed with giving them satisfactory endings. It helps that when this one ends, it ends big.
“Walk the Swine” gets its name from the main plot, namely Reese Witherspoon’s Oscar-winning movie. Piggy has a one-sided hate-on because of Reese’s success and it gets awkward when she’s a guest on the show. In an earlier episode, Piggy had a similar kind of rivalry with Christina Applegate, but that plotline didn’t really go anywhere. In this episode, Piggy’s interest in outdoing Reese leads to taking part in charity and it actually goes places. Even with the limited screentime, this subplot never meanders and keeps changing up without losing focus.
Fozzie has his own plot – surprise, surprise – but this one works better than his others. Mainly because he has a real supporting cast to play off of. His girlfriend Becky (Riki Lindhome) returns, having been absent since the first episode. Gonzo, Rizzo, and Pepe hang around as well, which puts us in a weird situation where Gonzo is somehow the weakest part in a story involving five characters. In this subplot, Fozzie’s found the key to success in making people laugh, but unfortunately it’s through making fun of Becky’s personal issues. Again, this goes into some funny places and lands the ending.
The C-plot has Rizzo get in a car accident with Scooter. Rizzo keeps trying to stop Scooter from getting the insurance companies involved by hooking him up with a series of increasingly-sketchy rat relatives. Not only does it fit almost seamlessly into the show because of Rizzo’s role in the Fozzie storyline, but it plays the escalation game rather perfectly. I almost didn’t want it to end, just so we could hear more about Rizzo’s corrupt family.
There are some really strong gags in there from start to finish. Rizzo and Pepe have a brief Abbot and Costello-style misunderstanding about Sean Penn. Fozzie’s secret shame is revealed and the way the others pile on with it is fantastic. Best of all, Sam the Eagle only has a single line in the entire episode and it may be the highlight.
At least, it would be the highlight if it wasn’t for the ending. I don’t want to give it away, but this is a segment where you suddenly remember that – oh yeah – these are just puppets and are supposed to have limitations in how we see them. Like, there’s a moment early in the episode where Scooter’s breathing through a paper bag and it took me a while to notice that that shouldn’t look as natural as it does. But the final moments really have you scratching your head and wondering how they worked their magic. Bravo.
I think what I take away the most from this episode is that there isn’t a low point for once. Even the previous episode, while featuring the fun plot about Piggy getting everyone rip-roaring drunk, suffered from having a lame Fozzie story that ended abruptly. Here, it all comes together nicely, never outstays its welcome, and doesn’t simply end out of nowhere.
Maybe it’s because Kermit barely does anything. He shows up enough, but it’s mainly to react to how insane everything and everyone is. You know, like how things were on The Muppet Show. He’s the passive protagonist, commenting on the parade of craziness going on around him.
It’s weird to suggest less emphasis on the main character, but there you go. Hey, it worked this week.
Gavin Jasper’s personality is 35% Fozzie Bear and 65% Bobo the Bear. Follow him on Twitter!