Off the heels of its first strong episode, Undeclared comes back down to Earth a bit with “Jobs, Jobs, Jobs,” an episode full of inconsistent stories reaching for some ideal about the realities of various situations, be it Rachel’s new relationship or how Steven’s tuition is getting paid. In its weekly attempts to turn awkward humor into revelatory moments, Undeclared often tries to bring resolution through humiliation – and in “Jobs,” that resolution feels thoroughly under cooked.
The most frustrating part about “Jobs” is how unevenly it approaches the idea of responsibility; while Rachel is held to task for not understanding what “chasing a dream” can entail (we’ll get back to that), Steven is let off the hook for quitting his job when he finds out his father gave up on his? More so, we don’t really have any idea on what kind of person Hal wanted to be – and it’s that lack of context that makes Steven’s journey through the college food service industry a thematically hollow endeavor. Steven rejecting an industry his father is thriving in is a ripe avenue for storytelling, but not in the way Undeclared wants to embrace it, which is simply patting Steven on the back for giving his father a break for taking a well-paying, if thoroughly lower middle-class, position to keep him in school.
It makes for a very weird backdrop to the other big story of the episode, where Rachel briefly dates Jimmy (Goeffrey Arend), and finds out what it’s like to be around someone dedicated to becoming someone. Again, this story lacks context; Rachel is presented as a woman without passion, someone who understands the dedication it takes to become great, yet finds herself unable to enjoy the intensity of Jimmy’s character. Their story never connects those two dots – and not only does it seem oddly righteous in painting Rachel as a good person for being honest about not liking him, it does so at the expense of Jimmy’s character, who quickly regresses from kind and charming (as seen in the first few moments they’re in his room) to absolutely insane and delusional to think he’d ever make it big. It seesaws constantly, seemingly encouraging his behavior and condemning it at the same – a duality that applies to Rachel’s behavior, and ends up rendering the whole thing a mess of unfunny impressions and empty punchlines.
It’s Steven’s story that is the most troublesome in the long run; in the end, “Jobs, Jobs, Jobs” sells both father and son short when it doesn’t try to make any connection between the dissonance between dreams and reality, something clouded by the idealism and ambition of college and all its supposed possibilities. This was Steven’s first real foray into the “real world,” and what does it amount to? Hal taking a job because his wife is burning through Steven’s college fund, and Rachel being unable to handle the comedic talent (or lack thereof) of Jimmy – ultimately, the episode seems to side against the seen and unseen females of the episode, as if they’re to blame for bursting the dreams of the men in their lives.
That is a weird, uncomfortable place to finish the episode – and while it’s possibly an unintended conclusion, it is still something that sticks out with each viewing of the episode. And with Ron and Marshall in the background eating garbage food, there’s not much else for “Jobs, Jobs, Jobs” to fall back on, the first example of what happens when Undeclared‘s brand of uncomfortable, reality-embracing comedy isn’t operating on all cylinders
– I could quote every single line of Perry’s brief apperance, but his impromptu rhymes about Steven are classic (and you can watch them right here).
– An understated dynamic of Undeclared: Lloyd’s constant attempts to frustrate Rachel.
– Dr. Evil impression jokes have aged about as well as Dr. Evil impressions. Remember when everybody did that pinky finger thing?
– Cameo Watch: Gerry Bednob (The 40-Year Old Virgin, Knocked Up, Playing House) appears as Steven and Marshall’s boss in the cafeteria, and is a much bigger fan of Marshall’s work than Steven’s attempts to steal a pie.
[Photo via FOX]