By Jodi Walker
February 09, 2020 at 11:36 PM EST
Nick Wall/HBO

Avenue 5

type
  • TV Show
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Genre

In the fourth episode of Avenue 5, the stakes could not be higher — what with the imminent death-by-radiation, and all — and the poop jokes could not be more frequent.

When I mentioned last week that I was hoping Avenue 5 would go “full-Carnival-poop-cruise” in the near future, I was thinking more of an anarchic Lord of the Flies scenario as sanitation and other services aboard the chip continued to dwindle…but, y’know, waste exploding out of the Avenue 5 also works.

While everyone aboard the Avenue 5 is unknowingly inching toward a nasty (and I do mean nasty) death, because apparently risk of radiation poisoning during recreational space travel is safe-guarded by a hefty layer of human feces 40 years in the future, Captain Clark is still processing (rather publicly) last week’s reveal that his trusty crew are each as fraudulent as they are aesthetically-pleasing. Given that Captain Clark is also a fraud, one might not think this news would come as such a shock. Especially considering that Captain Clark seems to feel his winning personality and outward-facing confidence still have a role to play aboard the Avenue 5…

And he is charming; you can understand how he got the fake-captain gig.

But he’s also…delusional? And often…quite drunk! Like when he wakes up at the top of the episode, slamming down a green juice and trying to convince himself that the reveal of his fake crew and the task of keeping that information from Judd was all some space-blackout-nightmare. But it’s not; there are 20 or so very real actors sitting on the bridge pressing fake buttons and dimming decorative lights to impersonate the actual engineers who reside just below them.

Conceivably, the ship is in no worse shape than it was before Captain Clark found out, and it means we get to spend more time with this episode’s real star: Sarah, a.k.a. Sarah. But the news does inspire Captain Clark to take an interest in actually learning about space…which he does alongside the children of Avenue 5, including one particularly precious wunderkind named Zeke who is incredulous that Captain Clark doesn’t know their ship is protected from cosmic radiation by a “wet suit.” Or as Billie explains said wet suit: “Every ship has a turd cloak.” The show doesn’t really explain the mechanics of poop-protection beyond that, so I won’t try to either.

Captain Clark does manage to convince Zeke that he knew about their ship’s employment of feces all along, but not before first proudly proclaiming himself, “Mr. Wet Suit,” a nickname that deserves to stick.

Of course, the real Mr. Wet Suit onboard is Mr. Judd, who has hired an acting crew of his own to populate the vigil outside of Judd Mission Control, and who has been convinced by Iris to host groups of 19 passengers at a time in his personal quarters to try to regain their adoration. Judd is confused about the odd number, but Iris reminds him that not all people come in couples, for example, he is not in a couple. “Neither was Zeus, and I’m basically Zeus,” Judd says. Iris points out that Zeus actually married his sister. “Ugh, my sister would make a selfish bride!” Judd exclaims as I become infinitely interested in a Succession-style Judd family spinoff.

It’s at one of these parties that Mr. Judd finally acquaints himself with Karen — a match made in glitter-clad, hair-highlighted hell — and they come up with the idea that a group of crew and passengers should take a friendly photo together on the bridge to put out a united front and boost morale on the ship. And with another slingshot moment coming up within the hour, it’s the perfect opportunity for a “Mr. Average” passenger to push a fake slingshot button and act like they’re all working together in harmony. Enter Frank, a.k.a. Mr. Average (a.k.a. Mr. Karen) who, inspired by Matt’s recent foray into unlicensed therapy, is attempting to be a bolder version of himself…which basically means wearing a necklace and accepting an opportunity to push the slingshot button.

That was a mistake. Mr. Averages should not be bold (and Mr. Wet Suits should not captain spaceships).

Even though Captain Clark has now managed to bond with the below-ground engineers and come up with a plan to give directions directly into the fake crew’s headsets, all that charming Captain Clark banter seems to have distracted the engineers from doing their actual jobs. Throughout the episode, we hear multiple mentions of needing to “vent the wetsuit,” but it seems that no one ever did it. And you know what that means…

As passengers and fake crew mingle about the bridge preparing for the slingshot moment, poop begins spewing into space from a small hole in the ship…then from a few small holes in the ship…then from a very large hole in the ship. “OH MY F— LOOK AT ALL THAT S—,” Sarah cries out (whether that’s in character as Sarah, or out of character as Sarah is unclear) seconds after Frank hits the button that’s supposed to unify all of Avenue 5 in peaceful harmony. “So the ship seems to be s—ing itself, but don’t get hung up on results,” Matt tells Frank reassuringly: “The journey is the destination.”

The destination is about to be death by radiation poisoning if someone doesn’t get out there and plug that s—-hole. And just as Captain Clark is insisting they need a s—-hole specialist to everyone who thinks this seems like a job for a captain, little Zeke comes running in to cheer on his buddy: “Go Mr. Wet Suit! He’s an expert!” Sarah, fully off-script at this point, then rouses the group with a touching story about how Captain Clark saved her life during an asteroid mining mission 20 years ago because while “he loves his uniform, he loves danger more — and that is why we are saved, people.”

Should’a been a little nicer to Sarah/Sarah, Cap!

And that’s how Captain Clark — still a little drunk, but no longer delusional about the usefulness of his commanding demeanor — finds himself strapped into an astronaut suit, about to be thrust out into space to repair Avenue 5’s itty-bitty, life-or-death poop problem.

A FEW SPACE NUGGETS:

  • Daisy May Cooper steals this episode from the moment Sarah explains that she got the part of Sarah because her name is Sarah. “So who are you right now?” “Now? Sarah.” “Are you actually Sarah or are you in character?” “Yes.”
  • THE FUTURE IS NOW: There are many excellent references to the present-past while touring Mr. Judd’s personal quarters including a passenger marveling over “Gone Girl on an original Kindle” and Judd showing off his prized first edition of Billy McFarland’s book, Prometheus, God of Fyre: “And this was way before he became the head of the FBI.”
  • Matt makes a word cloud of Doug and Mia’s counseling session to be displayed on every wall of their cabin, which includes a number of phrases I can’t mention here, and a lot of references to how carefully Doug dries his balls.
  • “Do you verbally consent to a hug?” Iris does not!

 

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Avenue 5

type
  • TV Show
seasons
  • 1
Genre
Airs
  • Sundays at 10:00pm
Premiere
  • 01/19/20
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  • Avenue 5
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