In the aptly titled “Aftermath,” TBS’s alien abduction comedy PEOPLE OF EARTH deals with the sad reality of Ozzie (Wyatt Cenac)’s surprise demise at the climactic ending of last week’s “Why Can’t We Be Friends”. On earth, the StarCrossed team unpacks Ozzie’s shocking demise. In space, Jonathan Walsh (Michael Cassidy) — the Reptilian alien Ozzie gave his life saving — and Jeff the Grey (Ken Hall) grapple with their hyper-efficient new boss, Eric the Cube.
In a comic highlight of an otherwise-morose episode, the recently-brunette Kelly (Alice Wetterlund), having rediscovered her passion for expressive dance, is enacting a performance for the people of StarCrossed (and a few scattered others), gesticulating wildly to a soundtrack that comprises break-up voicemail messages from her four ex-boyfriends, including Don the White (Bjorn Gustafsson). It is amidst this recital that Gina (Ana Gasteyer), the StarCrossed head honcho and a former therapist, is given the news of Ozzie’s demise from Richard (Brian Huskey), who was a second-hand witness to the event.
Jonathan Walsh and Nancy, who had gone AWOL protecting Ozzie and his StarCrossed alien encounters group brethren, have been returned to the ship of bureaucratic aliens overseeing the abductions of the members of StarCrossed. Walsh and Nancy are being treated as employees, though, not prisoners — despite the Reptilian assassin (Paul Lieberstein), at gun-point, promising to kill Jonathan Walsh and Ozzie in a forest last week. The assassin attempted to blast Walsh with an extraterrestrial phaser first, but Ozzie leapt in front of his gun and took the brunt of that impact. The assassin and Walsh then disappeared from the scene in a flash of white light. FBI special agent Alex Foster (Nasim Pedrad) was privy to the moment, and remains deeply rattled. Richard had been handcuffed to the steering wheel of Foster’s car, parked outside the range of visibility from the incident.
Back in the present, Foster is pressured by her boss at the FBI to report the “reality” of Ozzie’s death in the forest at the end of “Why Can’t We Be Friend.” He tries to insinuate that she has suffered severe trauma, and may not be recalling what she saw with total accuracy. Foster meditates on this.
Gina Morrison remains in serious denial about her own grief, not shedding a tear throughout Ozzie’s funeral, or while purporting to help others cope, or while keeping Ozzie’s ever-present pet fish, Abraham, with her at all times — including her job and at a bowling alley, where Ozzie’s self-described “best friend”
Eric the Cube chats with Jonathan Walsh, and alludes to the fact that he wants to eliminate Jeff the Grey (Ken Hall), his loathed underling, and the people of StarCrossed. This leads to a surprise mutiny plot, as Walsh, Jeff, Don, and the newly-alive Kurt, whom Gina had run over in the middle of last season, conspire in a storage locker to overthrow Eric. The cube, who has a lie-detector scanning function, cannot comprehend complex emotions, so when it asks Jonathan Walsh if he was responsible for Ozzie’s demise, Eric cannot comprehend that, when Walsh speaks in the affirmative, Walsh is actually blaming himself for the death, and takes no pride in the fact that his friend is dead.
Alex Foster refuses to change her story. She saw what she saw. So her boss fires her from the FBI on the spot. Of course, she doesn’t know a vital piece of information that we have been aware of for several episodes to this point: her direct supervisor is himself an alien, and in direct communication with Ozzie’s killer.
Gina, who had been repressing her feelings about Ozzie the entire time, finally unravels during a StarCrossed meeting when she tries to off-load Abraham onto another group member and asks for volunteers. This turns into an all-out bidding war, as Ozzie was well-loved by every single StarCrossed participant. Suddenly, Abraham Graham becomes the show’s second surprise death in as many episodes, as the popular goldfish goes limp and floats to the top of his bowl. Gina breaks into sobs, and the kindly Father Doug, whose church hosts the StarCrossed meetings, offers the group an unorthodox solution to the mourning: an extended, vulgar shouting session at the aliens in the sky.
Where this shouting session transpires (and what event it transpires next to) is one of the episode’s cleverest comic touches, and something I won’t disclose to you here.
Ozzie, by the way, was the absolute star of People of Earth. He was unquestionably the lead character, though it had been branching out into more of an ensemble piece during this second season. His passing, if it does indeed stick, would be equivalent to Ned Stark’s beheading at the end of the first Game of Thrones season: the nominal lead’s demise in the middle of a show’s run is a tidy way of ratcheting up the stakes, and telling the audience that, in this universe, no one is safe. I’m sure Wyatt Cenac is destined for big things in the future. His cynical, stoic line readings were a highlight of his time on The Daily Show and now in People of Earth.
…Or will he?
Because at the end of this episode, after the credits roll, Ozzie Graham’s casket gets sucked into the sky, through a beam of alien light…
Season 2, Episode 6 (S02E06)
People of Earth airs Mondays at 10:30PM on TBS
Alex Kirschenbaum | Contributor