Neal Gamby and Lee Russell bonded over their shared senses of insecurity and need for respect, but increasingly as this show goes on we’ve seen how much Gamby is motivated by the occasional higher principle while Russell is primarily in it for himself. Russell is a snake in the grass while Gamby is a bumbling oaf with poor social skills. Russell finally has what he wants, but it hasn’t gotten him the respect he craves, and at the top of the totem pole there’s nobody left to suck up to. This leaves him lashing out at every perceived slight and indignity, which of course only causes them to intensify.
This week’s humiliation takes the form of “King Ding-a-Ling,” a series of caricatures displayed around school featuring Lee Russell’s apparent/imagined tiny penis. Russell, naturally, interrogates teachers (with the requisite poor cover for his motivations), pouts in front of his wife, and eventually sends Gamby undercover to find out who’s doing it.
Gamby, meanwhile, continues his pursuit of his shooter; Lee’s advice to him about wearing the “Warriors” vest– “It doesn’t look good to have one of my vice principals living in the past”– could apply here as well. He’s booby trapped his new home, showing it to a very bored Janelle; Ray gets to see the barn he’s converted into the nexus of his investigation, and as usual, Ray has the clearest view of the whole situation. (On Neal’s Pepe Silvia board: “I think you’re becoming paranoid.” On Snodgrass: “She the one you brought to the motocross? She was awesome!”)
Speaking of Snodgrass, we open from her point of view, a flashback to the shooting. She comes across the scene, heads to the hospital, waits for Neal to revive after surgery, then asks to see him, identifying herself to the doctor as his girlfriend… only to be told he says he doesn’t have one. Cue devastation.
Fast forward to today. Now she’s dating an author who teaches at the local college, Brian Didn’t-Catch-His-Last-Name-and-Gave-Up-Looking, and this fact about Brian of course puts him on Neal’s radar as a suspect in his shooting, because Neal is bad at being in touch with his feelings and always transfers them into something else.
While Gamby’s undercover filling in for the fired Bill Hayden’s honors history class (something he’s hilariously ill-suited for), he gets to see both some serious shade at Snodgrass from Abbott, who’s always trying to cut her down when Neal’s around, and another comic in the King Ding-a-Ling series. Wheelchair-bound science teacher Mr. Milner is both the first person to find the newest comic and a little too eager to praise it, and Gamby quickly puts two and two together.
Cue the twin bits of insanity this episode: Gamby showing up to one of Brian’s lectures (posing as a detective, and using the name of Willows, the school security guard) and threatening him with a gun; and Russell trapping Milner in a handicapped stall with the lights off and, at the very least, attempting to break his fingers.
Snodgrass confronts Gamby and, of course, all of his familiar traits come back to lead him to sabotage any chance of reconciliation with her rather than admit any hurt feelings or that he screwed up. He couldn’t even told her what he told Ray, “I was all fucked up in the head after being shot.” He does manage to get out, “You’re not my type either. I don’t like it when girls have just landing strips. I like it when girls have full blown beavers. Anyone who knows me knows that.”
The more Lee Russell tries to claw his way out of the shit to get the respect he feels owed, the deeper he drags himself in. And the more Gamby is stuck living in the past, the more the world moves on without him. There’s probably something in that student’s paper on Reconstruction over the closing montage that’s thematically relevant to all this.
- We see those higher principles of Neal’s at work when he confronts Robin Shandrell before school; Neal can’t help but be an asshole, but he is genuinely trying to help the kid, and offers him his own meal card so he can get lunch. One might say Neal’s path is a strange and difficult one.
- I kinda left out any talk about Nash this episode, who seems to be determined to take the Neal Gamby route of gaining respect from the students through brute force. What do we think of this story and where do we think it’s going?
- Gamby is not only thunderously unprepared to teach AP history, he’s not even prepared to teach his five-seconds-of-Googling version of “This Day in History”: “Frankenstein has a monster?”
- To Gamby’s credit, he seeks out Bill Hayden for help with the class. To Gamby’s detriment, he attempts to create a comic situation and just ends up forcing an automobile/bicycle crash and ruining Hayden’s bike.
- Similarly, he’s right that he shouldn’t be teaching history, but he manages to express this in the most insulting manner possible to the other teachers at lunch.
- Lee Russell to the art teacher (Mrs. Deets, I think): “What an art… teacher you are.”
- Christine is ill-suited to reassuring Lee’s insecurities about his possibly tiny penis: “I don’t like them big. It hurts me.” And Lee responds with one of his more insane lines of the episode: “Well, I could hurt you. I could hit both walls if you wanted. And your uterus. Just– you know, get away from me.”
- His most insane line, of course: “Too bad I can’t destroy a handicap the way I would a normal person.”
- I tried to google for a photo using the title of this episode, but since Georgia King plays Amanda Snodgrass, all the results that came back were of her. So that’s what you’re getting. (And really, who can complain about that?)
- I can’t let the cold open go unmentioned, because Lee Russell fingered that tiger statue’s asshole.