Nuts. I forgot to watch South Park last week, for which I don’t want to accept too much blame since the season opener was pretty anemic. And it was pretty good, too, mixing extreme social anxiety and competing social causes with Kim Jong Un escalating war with the United States further and further. Anyway, “Holiday Special” is not that episode.
“Holiday Special” isn’t bad, and better than the exceedingly generic premiere of “White People Renovating Houses,” but still not as good as that episode from last week which I didn’t cover. “Put It Down” hit that sweet spot that combined real human drama–Tweek’s excessive paranoia grounded in the fact that he actually had good reason to be paranoid–with our basic American foible of condemning activity while still engaging in it and missing the larger problems around us. And it ended with a hilarious song.
“Holiday Special” is an almost purely Randy episode, although it’s one of those weeks where Randy’s own hubris is taken a little too far and he crosses into too much absurdity where the joke goes from funny to just, ok, we get it. This week’s social commentary is on statue-smashing…which is not to say that Stone and Parker are commenting on whether long-dead historical supervillains who aren’t communists should or shouldn’t have statues. They’re simply showing Randy going overboard with him climbing on the bandwagon and then hitting its accelerator. Randy leads a one-man protest against Christopher Columbus to the annoyance of a remarkably indifferent population, because honestly, nobody gives a shit about Columbus other than the bonus holiday he provides to kids and federal employees.
Turns out Randy is overcompensating, because of course, it turns out that Randy was secretly a huge Christopher Columbus fan in the distant era of 2013. Randy’s Columbus obsession becomes increasingly absurd, with revelations that he has Columbus salt and pepper shakers and that he actually got married in a Columbus costume. Clearly, Randy’s trying to be as “woke” as possible in advance of his expectation that he’ll be de-closeted and the social justice mob will eventually descend upon him…again, keeping in mind that the episode makes clear that nobody gives a shit about Columbus and that Randy is just insane.
The episode highlights Randy’s superficiality in that his quest to be as un-Columbus-like as possible continues to make him as Columbusy as possible. He goes so far as to hire an old Native American to tongue kiss in order to get a rigged DNA swab from a 23 & Me parody. After all, the commercial boldly advertises that a DNA test lets you show off just what percentage of you is oppressed. So naturally, the old Native ends up falling in love with Randy and spends much of the episode trying to win his heart and singing “And Then He Kissed Me” as part of a Native chant.
This is all very typically South Parkean, although again, it’s one of these cases where Randy’s absuridity kind of gets run into the ground. It’s also one of these things where you reflect on the ongoing inconsistency of Randy’s character–some weeks, he’s the sensible one on the show: he did uncover the plot of the Member Berries, after all. (‘Memba them?) But other times, like this week, he’s got a bee in his bonnet and he can’t let go of it until he’s gone well past the point of no return. Assaulting the old Native American while wearing his Columbus costume was probably that point, but of course, Randy just keeps going with it for another 10 minutes of show.
Rating: Three Marshes out of five.