The cult TBS alien abduction comedy hit PEOPLE OF EARTH continues its solid second season with the aptly-titled “Gerry’s Return,” centering around the titular alien abduction enthusiast’s first proper alien abduction.
Gerry (Luka Jones), his memory wiped, washes the mace out of his eyes in one-time flame Yvonne (Da’Vine Joy Randolph)’s sink. As Gerry pieces together the evidence that suggests he was abducted (he went to the diner he had agreed to meet Yvonne at… four days after they were supposed to hang out), Yvonne sadly reiterates to him a dating deal breaker that Gerry had already known: she doesn’t date fellow experiencers.
The alien-engineered robot Nancy (Debra McCabe) recovers the finger she misplaced in the climactic blast at Gina (Ana Gasteyer)’s home during last season’s explosive finale. In one of the more clever design conceits of the show, the finger is a self-actualizing mechanical organism, and it snakes its way to Nancy from out of all-business FBI Special Agent Alex Foster (Nasim Pedrad)’s sealed evidence bag.
In one of Beacon’s many midnight diners, we join Ozzie Graham (Wyatt Cenac), the skeptic journalist-turned-reluctant-alien-believer who functions as the show’s nominal lead character. Ozzie receives a call from Jonathan Walsh (Michael Cassidy), the Reptilian alien living undercover as a media mogul-turned-white-collar-fugitive. Foster, listening in as she sits across from Ozzie at said diner, (figuratively) tethers herself to Ozzie now, since she still wants to arrest Jonathan Walsh. She will shadow him during his conversation with Walsh, then arrest the alien she believes to be a white collar crook.
At a new StarCrossed group meeting, an excited Gerry wants to commemorate his first abduction. A congratulatory cake has been purchased for the occasion (by… Gerry). Gerry goes through the song-and-dance of a rigorous abduction sponsor selection process, though he, the audience, and the entirety of StarCrossed all know which fellow abductee he’s going to choose.
Chelsea (Tracee Chimo) goes on a classy date with Father Doug (Oscar Nunez). This may be one of their first times really talking to each other since their initial hook-up. We also glean a little expository insight into Chelsea’s hopes and aspirations that we haven’t seen before. She was a runner-up at a Miss Connecticut Pageant, her talent was speed painting. She wanted to be a veterinarian before she was married. Father Doug is nothing but receptive and encouraging when she divulges these interests, and their bond appears to strengthen.
As we intercut between the show’s ensemble figures, we return now to StarCrossed. Gerry, as People of Earth loyalists know, was an alien abduction enthusiast long before he was an alien abductee, even going so far as to fake an alien abduction just to be a part of StarCrossed. Now that he’s emerged relatively unscathed (apparently) from the other side, he demands that StarCrossed group leader Gina (Ana Gasteyer) hypnotize him, in the hopes of Gina uncovering the story behind his extraterrestrial abduction.
In the midst of his hypnosis, while unpacking the implanted cover-up story that Gerry’s alien abductors imbued him with to conceal the details of his kidnapping, Gerry inadvertently reveals his deep feelings for Yvonne to the rest of StarCrossed.
Ahead of an anticipated post-dinner hotel tryst with Chelsea, Father Doug runs into one of his church’s constituents, at the front desk of that very hotel. To cover up, they each book separate rooms and plan on a covert dalliance later.
Officer Glimmer (H. Jon Benjamin) to erase his gambling debts, told Jonathan Walsh’s pursuers about Walsh’s whereabouts. He warns Walsh and Nancy — the fugitives he has been harboring — about this out of either guilt or the goodness of his heart, giving them a ten-minute head start on their pursuers (Nancy computes an 8% chance of their survival) and suddenly they are on the run again.
In one of Beacon’s many other midnight diners (or perhaps the same one as before?), Yvonne agrees to give a relationship with Gerry another shot, citing his obsessive thoughts about her whilst being abducted, and they decide to “take it slow.” Then they ditch the diner before ordering for a night of (implied, off-screen) passionate sex. So much for their plan.
In a near-parallel scene, Father Doug and Chelsea agree to be more open as they explore their feelings for each other — sneaking around in a hotel for quickies is not Father Doug’s idea of a sustainable relationship. He’s a smart cookie, this one.
Alex Foster and Ozzie wait for Jonathan Walsh, who is running an hour late as he and Nancy struggle to evade human-sympathizer Walsh’s former alien colleagues. Walsh has reneged because Ozzie had agreed to meet him alone.
Officer Glimmer fakes a heart attack to evade cold-blooded murder at the hands of a Reptilian assassin/clean-up man, on the hunt for the ever-evasive Walsh and Nancy. This new sinister figure is portrayed by Paul Lieberstein, who like Nunez is an alum of co-EP Greg Daniels’ American production of The Office.
Later that night, a restless Gerry departs Yvonne’s bed to check his email. He clicks on a message with the subject header “Dark Breakfast” — and immediately goes through some sort of sleeper cell activation, as we flashback to a moment of Eric the cube prepping him for this exact task.
People of Earth continues its run with another pleasantly odd episode, but as various relationships begin to stabilize, the mystery at the show’s core feels a bit like it’s stagnating in order to sustain this season’s full run. Nowhere does that issue feel more pronounced than during the scene where Ozzie and Agent Foster fail to meet with Jonathan Walsh. Why would Ozzie agree to meet Jonathan Walsh and allow Alex Foster to hang out, very visibly, in his backseat, knowing full well that Walsh requested he arrive alone? Couldn’t Foster, a sophisticated FBI agent, have bugged the conversation from afar, and moved in when Walsh actually appeared? This moment felt like a somewhat implausible lack of foresight on the part of the show’s two smartest human characters, a way to superfluously extend the mystery of Jonathan Walsh’s past supervisory relationship with Ozzie and his fellow StarCrossed abductees. It didn’t come off as plausible drama so much as a narrative mechanism to keep these characters apart, and in a show where the rest of writer Aaron Shure’s narrative flows so smoothly, the scene stuck out like a sore thumb.
Season 2, Episode 3 (S02E03)
People of Earth airs Mondays at 1030PM on TBS
Alex Kirschenbaum | Contributor