In “Abbi’s Mom,” this week’s episode of Broad City,’ Abbi doesn’t know how to feel when her newly liberated mother, Joanne, drops by for a visit and Ilana suddenly starts feeling numb and lethargic and goes to great lengths to return to her normal, blissfully energetic self. But while it takes Abbi and Ilana 22 minutes of show time to solve their problems, it fortunately only took us about thirty seconds to get completely sucked in to the episode.
From lighting a ‘clean laundry’ candle to covering a few unattractive mug stains with a menorah, Abbi and Ilana do everything they can to prepare Abbi’s apartment for Joanne’s arrival (except removing a dildo from Abbi’s bedroom wall—Abbi thinks Joanne will assume it’s some kind of “kooky necklace holder”). Abbi also puts together the perfect itinerary of “conservative” activities for her and her mom to do together (including getting dinner at Sushi Mambeaux, where Ilana works as a waiter).
But when Joanne (Frasier’s Peri Gilpin) actually arrives, Abbi realizes her list might be a little too conservative. Joanne tells Abbi that she recently found a lump on her breast and that while the lump turned out to be benign, the discovery made Joanne realize how much of her life has passed her by. Abbi, shocked by her mom’s revelation, reluctantly agrees to partake in a good old fashioned “naughty girl’s night out.” And it becomes abundantly clear that Joanne is a changed woman when Bevers barges into the room in nothing but his undies and she refers to him as a “cute, furry little bear.”
Abbi and Joanne head to Sushi Mambeaux and find Ilana, who is clearly impressed (and sort of aroused) by Joanne’s short, skin-tight blue dress. After Abbi and Joanne knock back a few shots and ‘Mambeauxtinis,’ Abbi introduces her mom to the power of weed. High Joanne gives us a few funny anecdotes, including her theory about Charlie Rose being a huge pothead (“that voice, and that way he shoots the show like he’s in a black hole”). We also get to see a touching bonding moment between her and Abbi—Abbi calls her ‘dude,’ which, for the Broads, is the ultimate display of affection.
But things start spinning out of control when Joanne suddenly asks Abbi how many men she’s slept with (32) and shares her own number (3). If Joanne’s revelation about penetrating herself with a bottle of cough syrup isn’t enough to break Abbi, watching her mom stand up on a table and announce the details of their sex lives to a crowded restaurant certainly is.
Abbi and Joanne’s storyline never really gets resolved—does half of New York know about Abbi’s sex life now? How long did it take for Joanne’s high to wear off? But we assume that Abbi found it in her heart to forgive her mother based on the fact that we see her and Joanne shopping for dildos at the end of the episode.
Ilana’s new restaurant job has given her money and, therefore, power. But when Marcel (RuPaul, in his triumphant return) announces that it’s “spring cleaning” day, all that power immediately disappears. Marcel channels his best Miranda Priestly and informs his staff that whoever makes the least amount of tips that night will be fired. Ilana would normally be all over the competish, but unfortunately her SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) is in full force. She can’t go a few minutes without crumbling to the ground and/or talking about the pointlessness of life, so she tries to remedy the situation by setting up an extremely bright SAD lamp in the restaurant storage room. She also tapes a magazine cut-out of Lil Wayne to the wall to keep her company.
Side note: the strange Asian-French fusion thing Sushi Mambeaux has going on is both intriguing and confusing. The restaurant not only has candle holders covered in Eiffel Tower decals but also serves delicacies like foie gras with seaweed, sushi fondue, and pork belly hand rolls. Also, some members of the wait staff wear berets. Why? Who are they trying to impress?
Anyway, back to Ilana. Everyone’s raking in the tips, but whenever Ilana tries to serve a table she inevitably gets hit with a wave of depression. Abbi intensifies the powers of the SAD lamp by using tinfoil to reflect its light on to Ilana’s face, but that only works for so long. After Ilana literally tells one customer that “life is trash,” she resorts to desperate measures and snatches a heat lamp from the Sushi Mambeaux kitchen.
By the time Abbi finds her again Ilana’s holed up in her lamp sanctuary, which is now covered completely in tinfoil. Abbi replaces the bulb in Ilana’s lamp to make its effects even stronger, but unfortunately the power in the storage room goes out and leaves them in complete darkness.
At this point Ilana knows she’s lost the tip race, so she finds Marcel and tells him she doesn’t care if he fires her. Initially Marcel thinks that Ilana is using some kind of reverse psychology tactic on him, but eventually he realizes that she’s being serious—Ilana is genuinely depressed.
But don’t worry, the episode has a happy ending. An impressed Marcel tells Ilana that her “depression shit” is “next level bitchy” and promises to fire Owen instead. And by the time she, Abbi, and Joanne get to the sex store, Ilana’s willing to admit that she should take her depression meds instead of relying solely on a lamp to keep her above water. “So I get sick sometimes and need medicine. Who cares?” Ilana asks. Preach it, girl! Super-silly episodes like last week’s ‘Mushrooms’ are always fun, but we love it when Broad City tackles a more serious topic like depression and puts its own weird, wacky spin on it.
“I’ve never had sex with a man who didn’t speak English. Not even an ESL guy.” – Joanne to Abbi, about her lack of sexual experience
“You guys ever fall asleep here and just spent the night? If you ever have to, it’s surprisingly not soul-crushing.” – Brenda to the rest of the Sushi Mambeaux wait staff
“Ass of an angel, mind of mental health MacGyver.” – Ilana, describing Abbi
For something both you and your cool, hip mom can enjoy, check out new episodes of Broad City every Thursday at 2:30 a.m. ET.