Review: The Muppets Mayhem, Episode 3 – “Exile on Main Street”

Published: May 24, 2023
Categories: Feature, Reviews
Animal cautiously raises a drumstick over a drum pad

We’re at the third episode in the series now and we’ve got a firm grasp on all the main characters and personalities. We don’t have to work as hard to keep track of everyone’s names or roles which means now the writers can start digging deep into back stories, interpersonal dramas and alternative universes. And they do not hold back in this episode. Luckily the writers have also chosen to use the storytelling trick of mirroring to hold it all together in our minds.

Mirroring is used throughout the series both within individual episodes and between episodes. It’s fairly obvious in this episode because of just how closely the human and Muppet problems resemble each other. But it can be found in other aspects too.

Nora smells a Grammy award as Lips lingers in the background

The episode starts with the band meeting Zedd in his recording studio where Nora fangirls over meeting the producer while the band is totally chill. Unfortunately their chillness doesn’t translate to producing new music. All the band members are separated while Zedd records their warm up sounds and mixes them into a looped and layered song in our first example of mirroring in this episode. It calls back to the looped song the band created in this episode’s pre-theme van moment. But unlike that gem, this song is autotuned and packed with so many effects that the Mayhem sound is unrecognizable.

The Electric Mayhem records in a high-tech studio

While laughing about how these fancy gadgets could replace all of them as musicians, (Hmm, sound like any debates we’re already having about AI?) Animal is in the recording booth and the only thing he hears is that the band doesn’t need him anymore. And he storms out. 

Deprived of his livelihood, he does what anyone would, Animal goes to find a job, with help from an employment agency. He tries janitorial work, answering phones and finally finds his place working in a Japanese restaurant. The multiverse of Animal jobs.

Meanwhile, Nora receives a cleansing from Janice after the disaster at the studio but instead of helping, her day only gets worse as she and Hannah have a fight over their various tensions ending with Hannah eventually kicking Nora out of the house and refusing to speak to her. Second bit of mirroring here as we get these rifts between both humans and Muppet characters.

Seen from below, the Electric Mayhem an Nora stare through a hole that has been broken through the floor

We don’t get any progression in Nora and Hannah’s feud, but the band works to find Animal and they finally see a giant billboard picturing Animal as a phenomenal hibachi chef. We learn that Floyd has raised Animal since he was a baby, again, reflecting on Nora and Hannah’s relationship. Floyd doesn’t know what to say to bring Animal back to the band (again, reminiscent of Nora’s difficulty talking to the band in the previous episode when she wants them to take her back after all the lies) and instead he sings. And it’s quite the tear-inducing moment.

The band is back together and ready to take on their next great adventure! Or the same great adventure: their album.

Most Valuable Muppet: It has to be Animal, right? Look how versatile he is in the episode! He’s not afraid of trying new things: drum machines, janitorial work, answering phones. He’s the heartbeat of the band. He was absolutely adorable as a baby. He appreciates great architecture and tar pits. Animal has many talents and facets and now all of us watching, as well as the characters in the show, get to appreciate them.

Most Valuable Human: Moog! The band officially makes him a friend instead of a fan after he almost gets mauled by a lion when looking for Animal, and invites him to their recording session the next day. Tahj Mowry plays it perfectly.

Musical Highlight: This episode has its original song “Makin’ Mayhem” swiftly taken over by other artists and the cover, which is very poignant in the moment, “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” only lasts for a quick second with the band before it becomes the background track and I lose focus, so I’m going to give this honor to the Simon Van Loop! It is pure Mayhem jam using the instruments they have on hand: Simon game, vocals, snack bag, empty bottle, snores and beaded curtains. It achieves the same thing with minimal cost that Zedd’s spaceship studio produced with millions of dollars worth of equipment. Can’t beat that.

Best Joke: Okay, this is probably not the best joke (and I didn’t feel like I could nominate every scene with Animal and Ben Schwartz) but it made me laugh the hardest because I had to work for it. When the band returns to the Shack after looking for Animal in all his favorite places, Zoot remarks that the Blockbuster in Van Nuys has closed. The band just gives him a look and moves on with the conversation. Later Dr. Teeth says they’ll find their beast of burden. And immediately Zoot says, “I still have Bambi.” 

If you’re me the first three times I watched this, you think Zoot is referring to Bambi the deer somehow being a beast of burden and you’re ready to label this the worst joke. And then, if you’re still me, you finally put all the pieces together and realize that Zoot still has a copy of Bambi from the Blockbuster and it’s a genius joke.

Worst Joke: The Benihana (Benny Hana) kids eat free joke.

First Appearance of…: Baby Animal! He looks a bit like Fizzgig. And he better be the next big obsession in merch.

Baby Animal sitting in a cage

Notable Cameo: We get some real good ones in this episode. Sofia Carson belts out a hit song, no big deal; Jennifer Irwin is the perfect straight-woman for Animal’s phone antics; and James Hong introduces a Chosen One lore for hibachi restaurants that I would like a whole spinoff series about. But I think we can all agree Ben Schwartz steals the show with his Animal repartee. I could watch a whole episode of them going back and forth.

Coolest Puppet Trick: Can you tell I’ve watched this episode a fair few times? I’m giving this to the opening sequence again. You know how we never question whether these puppets can play their instruments? Well, now they’re making music with all manner of things and I 100% believe these characters are crinkling bags, blowing air over bottle openings and clacking beads in very specific ways. 

Animal chops food as a cook at a restaurant

Adultiest Content: The scene with the whole band and Nora in the van crying over what could possibly have happened to Animal and, though it’s played for laughs, Lips outright stating that Animal might be dead is a lot for this band to face. Though I do want to say that jail should have been one of the first places they checked.

One More Thing: Look for more mirroring throughout the season! The last bit I have for this episode is the difference between JJ and Moog in terms of using nicknames. Moog calls Nora “Thunderdome” based on a story she told but stops using it when she tells him to. JJ continues to use a nickname Nora hates and does not listen when she tells him to stop. Great character building! And then Zoot can’t seem to get Moog’s name right, but that’s creating a different character altogether.

Okay, One More Thing: When the group tells Nora that they gave their hit song to Zedd and Sofia Carson, Janice mentions that you can’t own a song, like land or a book or a poncho. That almost derailed this whole review into exploring media copyright, land acknowledgements for native peoples and the history of ponchos. So while this review is not the best place for all that, it shouldn’t stop you from exploring these concepts of ownership. Warning: these are very deep holes.

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by Katilyn Miller

Previous episode review: “True Colors”

Next episode review: “The Times They Are A-Changin'”

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