15th Aug2015

‘Review 2×03: Falsely Accused, Sleep With Your Teacher, Little Person’ Review

by Gretchen Felker-Martin

“The farther you go, the smaller you get.”

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There can be no question as to whether or not Forrest’s journey to review life’s wonders and horrors is one of attrition. Piece by piece, bite by bite, Thursday by Thursday, Forrest MacNeil is dying before our eyes. The episode’s third act literally diminishes Forrest, first placing him among gigantic exaggerations of daily life and then pushing him to his knees even as real loss tears the structure of his childhood and family further apart.  We’ve seen him scoring drugs with teenagers, pressuring women to make love in airplane bathrooms, destroying his marriage for no real reason, and now it appears that the momentum of his awful life is simply too great to escape. Not that he doesn’t try.

When Josh and Tina (full credit to Tina, presumably) frame him for burning down a sorority house and Forrest finds himself staring down the barrel of eight years behind bars, his cornered desperation is rat-like. He begs the two to clear his name, shrieking and sobbing, all commitment to his job gone in the blink of an eye. The show couldn’t have set a more vicious hook for Forrest’s stubborn refusal to abandon Review and his self-imposed idiotic constraints even as his childhood home burns to the ground around him. He knows that he, Forrest, will escape and so all other concerns can be dismissed, even if the pencil lines that mark his growth from child to man in the doorway of his father’s kitchen have to go up in smoke to salve his dignity.

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“We can’t tell them you’re innocent, because you’re guilty,” Tina tells him during the ‘Falsely Accused’ segment. In the moment it’s a chilling window into the malevolent soul of someone willing to let Forrest swing in the breeze and risk women’s lives for what amounts to a gag. It’s also an indictment from the universe delivered right to Forrest’s pleading face. He really is guilty. His wildly varying level of commitment to his own bizarre principles betrays his essential selfishness, his willingness to benefit from his own horrible actions even as he disowns responsibility and denies reality. His father’s heartbroken “No, no!” when he returns to the sight of his home, lovingly cared for and surrounded by gardens he’s worked hard to improve is the kind of wrenching moment that Review keeps returning to without ever risking repetition. It’s It’s a Wonderful Life played in reverse and in excruciating slow motion, Forrest revealed to all his loved ones as a jovial monster who believes himself good and kind.

“Under the usual circumstances of my life, I could easily have grabbed this fire extinguisher and put out the blaze that was rapidly engulfing the kitchen,” Forrest narrates, clinging to his cheap and offensive attempt to live a little person’s life as a defense for his negligence and willful stupidity. In ‘Little Person,’ a half-assed plan to surround himself with enormous things in an attempt to feel small leads to what Forrest sees as a more serious plan: imitating Dorf on Golf. “He is played by Tim Conway and bears an amusing resemblance to Hitler,” Forrest chuckles to himself before embarking on a cruelly self-righteous and protracted pantomime, walking on his knees (Andy Daly apparently found it agonizing) to impersonate a little person. As his denial deepens and his fixation on the idea that his work is important and his perspective unbiased takes manic root within him, Forrest becomes increasingly cartoonish and pitiful, lurching between reviews in an attempt to recenter himself while more and more chaos unfurls around him.

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The stubborn, bizarre denial and gut-wrenching climax of ‘Little Person’ and the white-knuckle panic of ‘Falsely Accused’ neatly bookend the squirming discomfort of the show’s midmost segment, ‘Sleep With Your Teacher.’ Forrest misinterprets a besotted teenager’s request as a direct call to action, pursuing that same boy’s teacher (Mrs. Greenfield, referred to as such in narration even as she and Forrest romance one another and have vigorous sex) through cyber-stalking, social pressuring, and deceit. His attempt to evade the disgruntled student(the first time a questioner has appeared in the show, I think), who catches him and Mrs. Greenfield the next day, are a beautiful look at just how bad he is at maintaining his own show’s facade. “Well I don’t know, uh, who you are or, uh, what you could ever mean,” he stammers, stone-faced, “by that or anything else.”

Yet again, Forrest, wielding predatory tactics and his square, fixed-grin charm, has found new love(under what A.J. refers to as “gross and messed up” circumstances), and yet again it seems doomed by the episode’s end. I wouldn’t be surprised at this point if the season ended with his being stabbed by a round dozen disgruntled ex-lovers. He has become too toxic to attain stability, too lost in his world of imagined importance to function in a human connection.

Even as he reaches out to pluck the world’s bounty, Forrest MacNeil is starving to death.

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