There’s a lot of things The Muppets have been nailing since their new show first premiered. Their laugh out loud comedy. Finding a ton of awesome (albeit very white) guest stars. Working a couple more female Muppets into the cast. Use of golf carts as effective props. Letting us into the know of Bobo’s personal life. Uncle Deadly’s on point sarcasm. The list really does go on. However, there has been one aspect of the show that’s been faltering episode after episode after episode. That ep9-gonzo2problem?

Not enough Gonzo.

It goes without saying that Gonzo is a fan favorite. Up till now, he’s definitely been in his fair share of The Muppets episodes, but it seems the writers have really only been giving him (solid) one-liners. He did have that B-plot with Liam Hemsworth, but that’s sort of been it. So naturally, when I found out this week’s episode title was “Going, Going, Gonzo” I was pretty psyched – as everyone really should be at the mention of the character!

For a quick recap of the episode (though I doubt you guys really need one) the episode starts with Miss Piggy and Kermit bickering over her attempt to pitch her new brand of bottled water on the air. During a musical number between Piggy and Joseph Gordon-Levitt, a mishap occurs backstage, launching Gonzo into the rafters of the studio. This rekindles Gonzo’s love for the extreme, prompting him to try out a new stunt. Kermit and the gang are supportive of his decision, though have to do some convincing with Piggy first. After realizing how dangerous this new stunt could be, Gonzo backs out of the performance, but with Kermit’s belief in him he’s able to pull it off in the end! (There’s also a great subplot about Scooter hanging with the Electric Mayhem. More on that later.)

So, let’s jump to the focal point of this episode, the part on which I’ve been dying to talk about for weeks now: GONZO!!!

ep9-gonzoGonzo immediately gets in on the action of the episode, kicking us off with the whole bit of him flying up with the studio wires. Needless to say, it was a wonderful sequence. It seemed like a Muppet Show caliber behind-the-scenes mess up. This has been my favorite cold open of the season thus far (on par with “Pig’s in a Black Out”, fer sure), and I’m crossing my fingers that this will all lead into even more insane stunts performed by our favorite blue weirdo throughout the season. It was awesome to see a crazy, stunt-loving Gonzo again. While his eccentric tastes have definitely still been in play, Gonzo’s been somewhat tamer than normal so far on the show. It was nice to see some life breathed back into the guy.

At first I wasn’t sure how I felt about Gonzo’s hesitance for going through with his stunt. After all, the Gonzo we’ve known and loved over the years has never balked from a death defying act of entertainment. I was worried that maybe they’ve made Gonzo too human, but by the end of the episode my fears were 100% quelled. Having Gonzo doubt himself is actually kind of natural at this point. After all, Gonzo has a reputation for being one of the more sensitive Muppets. From questioning his place in the universe to being sad about his inability to get a letter to Santa Claus (‘Tis the season to reference that special!), Gonzo’s always been quick to doubt himself. I’m glad that, with a friendly word from Kermit, Gonzo found his gumption and went through with the stunt. That scene between the two was incredibly touching; a very nice moment to add to Gonzo’s repertoire of moments that make me cry.

(As a whole, I actually felt like there wasn’t enough Gonzo in the episode, but I also recognize that I would only be truly satisfied if Gonzo was in every single shot and frame of “Going, Going, Gonzo.” So I’m gonna chalk it up to my own personal bias.)

ep9-kermitHey! Speaking of the green guy! Kermit was really great in this episode! I personally have no problems with this “angry Kermit” that everyone keeps complaining about (if you’re a show-runner, chances are you’re gonna be frazzled with your coworkers/friends/exes, whether it’s 2015 or 1976), but it was great to see the more feeling, friendly side of Kermit in this one. It felt akin to the Kermit who hung out with a tranquilized Fozzie a couple episodes back – really just trying to help and look out for his friends. Kermit going out of his way to make Gonzo’s stunt happen felt like the good ol’ frog we’ve been given a lot of over the last two decades. Hopefully the writers will find a way to blend the amiable-Kermit with the cranky-Kermit – a mixture of the two would be perfect. Plus Kermit telling Gonzo how proud he is of him? I’m not crying, you’re crying! Shut up!

Then there was the side plot. We’ve been getting a lot of shining moments with Scooter and the Electric Mayhem so far this season, so it wasn’t a surprise that they all had their moments in this episode as well. The scene with Scooter thinking an earring would solve all his problems was particularly hilarious as it ep9-jgl1slowly escalated. Not to mention it was nice to see the Electric Mayhem and Scooter just hanging out together (all that was missing was an abandoned Presbyterian church). Plus Janice and Scooter? Yes please. I want more of that friendship.

The humans, while only in the episode briefly, were still pretty stellar. JGL’s opening number with Piggy was nice, but he really stole the spotlight when he explained how acting worked – using his role from Looper as an example – and then demanded, “Give me that Muppet money!” followed by a maniacal laugh. Dave Grohl, who we already know does a fabulous Animal impersonation, had great chemistry with the Electric Mayhem. The episode really couldn’t have ended any other way except a drum-off between Grohl and Animal. Absolute perfection.

Besides my complaint of “not enough Gonzo” (which, again, is my petty bias), the whole bit about Piggy putting calories in her bottled water was fine but I got bored of her weird beauty/shock/acupuncture therapy treatment pretty quickly. Obviously Piggy adores looking fabulous, but the gimmick of a woman going through insane and painful feats just to look good is getting tiring. We get it. Piggy’s vain. Can we see something new about her character now?

My biggest disappointment from the entire episode was the exchange between Gonzo and Rowlf, ep9-rowlfwherein Rowlf wishes his friend luck and Gonzo responds, “Thanks, Rowlf. I’m gonna miss you.” It seems like it’s the writers/performers acknowledging the dog’s absence and trying to make it okay with a joke, but honestly, if even the characters are saying they miss Rowlf then why not add him into more episodes? Have him start working in catering or something! Have him stop by the studio to say hi! Have him get swindled into helping Uncle Deadly for a day! There are endless possibilities!

I feel like balancing each Muppet’s screen time is something the writers are still working on. Sure, we’ve been getting a lot of great moments with the core cast, not to mention we normally get good one-liners from Sam, Sweetums, Uncle Deadly, Bobo, Chip, Yolanda, and Big Mean Carl in almost every other episode. I wouldn’t mind, however, if one of those characters maybe got a leading plot in an episode, ep9-jgl3instead of a couple lines or a C plot. Plus I’ve noticed Fozzie’s only in episodes where he’s the main focus of either the A or B plots. It seems weird that we never see the bear milling around in the background or adding to other people’s story lines. I mean, why couldn’t he have been there to encourage Gonzo too? That would’ve been something. [Insert my regular complaint about an absent Walter (come on, where did that guy go??).]

All in all, a very enjoyable episode. It was, dare I say it, Gonzo-tastic. Gonzo-rific? Gonzo-wesome! Gonzo-nominal … okay, uh, I’ll stop now…

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Best Joke: Sweetums sneezing throughout the episode, leading to him messing up Yolanda’s hair. “Seriously? There goes my blow out.” Brief but hilarious gag.

Best One-Liner: “Yeah, he lets me use [his time machine] on weekends. I climb in there on Friday, and when I get out it’s Saturday. Whole thing takes about a day.”

Lamest Joke: “It’s still a mystery to me why nobody bought Hog Wash.” Too easy, writers.

Best Guest: It’s a tie! Both JGL and Grohl brought so much charm and humor to the episode!

Best Callback: Gonzo holding onto a cord while floating above everyone? Hmmm, where have we seen that imagery before?

Missed Opportunity: Fozzie joining Kermit on the roof for the last scene. It could have been a really touching moment between the trio.

MVP (Muppet Valuable Player): I mean. Gonzo. It’s Gonzo. Of course it’s Gonzo. Why would it be anyone else?

Song Watch: “Fly Me To The Moon” featuring JGL and Piggy, and “Learn to Fly” featuring Grohl and the Electric Mayhem.

Cool Puppetry Trick: Between Gonzo flying up into the rafters and being shot out of a cannon, there were plenty of excellent tricks to be seen.

Adultiest Content: We learned Dr. Teeth took some lessons in “the rhythm of love” from a voodoo princess.  Oh my.

One More Thing: I really hope Chip’s dream of bringing people joy with his tap dancing makes a re-occurrence in future episodes.

Okay, One More One More Thing: There’s a bone in Gonzo’s nose? We’ve seen that thing bend! I DEMAND MORE INFORMATION.

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Click here to have a sick drum-off on the Tough Pigs forum!

by Julia Gaskill

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