19th Sep2015

‘Review 2×07: Buried Alive, 6 Star Review, Public Speaking’ Review

by Gretchen Felker-Martin

“I bet the only thing more horrifying than that sound will be the moment it stops.”

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Forrest MacNeil is the worst kind of faux-perpetual motion machine. He may run forever, he may in fact be incapable of ceasing to pursue his destructive path, but he needs an incredible amount of fuel to keep going, and his fuel of choice is suffering. ‘Buried Alive, 6 Star Review, Public Speaking’ takes Review‘s arbitrary structure and core of self-deceit and stretches it as far as it can go before it starts to scream. Then, naturally, it keeps going. Other shows might stagnate in the place of extremity to which Review has pushed itself, but week after week Andy Daly and co find a way to plumb new and awful depths in what is essentially a video log of one man’s protracted dissolution into sparking wreckage.

“I only told one person where I am,” Forrest confides in the camera while lying on his back in a flimsy coffin six feet underground, “and it was the stupidest person I know.” Forrest’s death wish is an increasingly prominent part of the show. He’s always been lazy and sloppy, taking the path of least resistance whenever it presents itself, but that laziness has metamorphosed into a full-blown lack of concern over his own mortality. Forrest, informed via phone call while buried that Suzanne is marrying fraud, cheater, and one-time catfishing associate Joe Dale Jr., looks ready to close his eyes and drift off into death until Josh forgets where he’s buried. Then Forrest winds up breaking through the coffin and clawing his way back to life, energized with ratlike fervor to survive. That zest is gone almost at once, subsumed into the quotidian frustrations of trying to give a life experience a six-star review in a five-star system.

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Forrest, unable to puncture the fragile idea that his work has meaning by awarding a six-star rating, begins a separate show called Assess which rates things on a scale ranging from two to six stars. After allowing a chocolate stain to mar an otherwise perfect ice cream experience, a breath of idyllic air wafting through a landscape of horror, he premieres a third show, titled Evaluate in which he gives out only six-star ratings and then proceeds to let A.J. kick him repeatedly in the testicles. Rolling around in agony, he utterly fails to recognize that the arbitrary nature of his new ratings system is no more limiting and absurd than the one he works in every day. Forrest is immune to irony and to hypocrisy, wrapped up in a bubble of self-important delusion that it seems nothing can pop.

The episode’s final segment, ‘Public Speaking,’ is a nightmarish soup of emotional dysfunction. Forrest uses the called-in request as a thinly-veiled excuse to expose Joe Dale Jr. and Suzanne’s upcoming marriage for the fraud it is, cooking up a toxic speech designed specifically to rip Suzanne apart and ruin Joe. That he’s not invited is only a minor impediment, one his head injury(the atrocious gravedigger he bribed in the episode’s first segment mistook him for a zombie) and a little heavy drinking help him skate past with, if not aplomb, then at least ease. For a moment it seems as though the trip down memory lane prompted by watching his old wedding videos and seeing Suzanne’s father(the always-excellent Fred Willard, delivering awful sex jokes and wistful thoughts of his grandchildren living in the cold black void that would eventually be his demise) extract from him a promise to keep Suzanne happy will stay his vengeful hand, but it isn’t to be. “Perhaps I should have stopped then,” Forrest muses in the voice-over as he and Joe Dale Jr. brawl amid the horrified wedding guests, Forrest biting Joe’s leg like an enormous rat looking to win at any cost, but he can’t stop. He’s lost the ability, given it up freely for the illusion of importance and power.

The only question is how long it’s going to take for that trade to lead to something so awful that it can’t be endured.

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