This week’s episode of POWERLESS was a marked improvement on almost each of its past episodes, bringing the laughs more consistently, but more than that, more quality. It worked because many of the jokes, certainly the best ones, stemmed from character and not just this wacky world full of superheroes and supervillains from the DC Universe. Titled “Emergency Punch-Up” the episode was definitely a punch up from what I’ve come to expect from this show.
We open on Ron streaming “Making a Supervillain” at work, a documentary on Dr. Psycho, and apparently one that mirrors “Making a Murder” in that it casts the person in question in an ambiguous manner. Ron thinks Dr. Psycho is innocent, but doesn’t want anyone to tell him how it ends. Then old lady Dorothy walks by saying she’s seen “this program” and says she can’t believe they declared him innocent. Ron calls Dorothy a b*tch as she walks away, and I laughed because it is so out of character for him.
We then learn that Emily has arranged a corporate retreat for everyone at the Charm City branch of Van Industries. They’re going to Coast City. She’s made sure that there are extra activities that everyone on the team is into (Teddy is attending an artisinal honey tasting hosted by Ira Glass). Everyone boards a bus and is off, but Emily’s team stays behind to wait for Dorothy, who she offered to drive with because she felt bad. The team is bummed they have to wait but they occupy themselves (seeing how many post-it notes they can put on Teddy). And Van retreats to his office, where it is revealed he is working with two writers who are feeding him jokes at all times (thus, the punch-up). He wants to be prepared to be funny in the room with corporate bigwigs at the retreat. They’re two Harvard grads who used to write for The Suite Life of Zack and Cody. “Great use of Harvard degrees,” Jackie points out to them after Van continuously insults her with their jokes. I laughed.
News Bulletin! Turns out that Dr. Psycho has released an unknown toxic gas onto all of Charm City. They mayor advises everyone stay indoors. Emily is worried that Dorothy is outside caught in the gas, but Ron shows her a picture from Instagram of Dorothy sipping tropical drinks in Coast City already. That’s when the office goes on lock down to keep the gas out, and they are all stuck! But Emily is set on coming up with a way for them all to have fun and bond in the office.
So Emily uses her “back-up” decorations to create a luau looking party in the office, complete with lava drinks! The group quickly jumps on those and gets drunk (though they still won’t do karaoke despite Emily’s constant request). They play “desert island” in which they each pick a person they would take to a desert island to survive with. Jackie said she’d go by herself even if it meant she’d starve to death. Wendy chooses Van because they’re still doing the gag where she wants him sexually–but also because she can tell he’s iron-deficient by his brittle fingernails and knows she can overpower him and eat him if it came to that. Teddy chooses Ron because they are bffs. But when Ron chooses Jackie, Teddy is pissed Ron didn’t reciprocate. They all end up arguing. When somebody says Teddy couldn’t spear a fish to save his life, Van bets him $50 he couldn’t knock over a trash can with a tiki torch. Teddy tries, misses the trash can, and hits a window, cracking it and creating a hole to outside. Gas breach!
Wendy leads them to a room that has everything they need–except food, water, gas masks, or hazmat suits. But it does have a bucket for them to use the bathroom in. Van has already gone, as he’s had six lava drinks. The gas masks are hanging outside, as they were used for decorations. Also Van’s jokes are suddenly not as sharp, and it turns out the comedy writer of the two punch-up guys died in the gas breach. Emily decides to make her own hazmat suit (using the bathroom bucket as a helmet) and ventures out to get the real gas masks for the group. That’s when punch-up guy runs and rips open her suit (and in the process exclaims all the things he hates about his partner). Emily breathes in and passes out!
When she wakes up, Emily goes off on the group, saying how ungrateful they are, how she never gets a thank you, etc. Van speculates it’s some kind of anger gas she inhaled, but the news soon reveals that it’s a truth gas. Emily’s true feelings are coming out and they’re not pretty. Oh, and also, if one is exposed for over two hours of the gas, they will die. They need to get her to come back in the safe room. They send Ron out in his own hazmat suit, but he’s quickly scared back inside by the vicious Emily.
Van then gives a speech (inexplicably slipping into a Southern accent) about how before Emily came they were all just a bunch of strangers working in an office together. She’s the one who brought them together and she’s the one who they never acknowledge, yadda yadda (turns out its a speech written by the other punch-up guy–he’s better at story). They know they have to make a sacrifice to get Emily in there and save her life. Cue up the Taylor Swift karaoke! Emily comes running in to the chorus of “Since You’ve Been Gone!”
The next day she doesn’t remember a thing, but the group all tells her it was the best retreat they’ve been on and thank her sincerely. Emily is touched.
Overall it was the perfect use of a bottle episode, throwing all our principal characters together and making it about these characters and their relationships to one another. It may have been the best episode yet.
Season 1, Episode 9 (S01E09)
Powerless airs Thursday at 830PM on NBC
Paul transferred from the Gotham City branch of The Tracking Board offices where he used to write reviews for shows with actual superheroes starring in them.
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Paul Gulyas | Contributor