Vice Principals S2E5, “A Compassionate Man”

For all the terrible things Lee Russell has done over the course of this series and the way their consequences have started to come back on him, these last two episodes have focused on his past– last week’s giving some insight into how Russell was shaped into the man he became; this week’s giving some insight into how he met Christine– and how the man he became influenced the start of that relationship, and the second thoughts Christine has long harbored.

The cold open features the Russells out to dinner, where they run into Kevin Yoon, who was Christine’s boyfriend in college before Lee. Kevin, however, dropped out, moved away, and broke up with her after someone spread vicious rumors about him being gay and involved in a number of frat-house homosexual orgies and the like.

It probably doesn’t take a particularly astute viewer to conclude that Lee was behind those rumors; though the episode never explicitly confirms this, it seems all but certain after Lee doubles down on them in the big fight with Christine at his birthday party. That fight is the culmination of Christine’s behavior all episode, as running into Kevin– and discovering he’s married with kids– reawakens an itch she can’t scratch: What if I had married Kevin instead of Lee?

Christine suspects the truth of what Lee did but doesn’t want to face it directly, so she starts by contacting Kevin on Facebook and rekindling their relationship; when Lee discovers this, he forces her to take (what he says is) Klonopin, in what I’d call maybe his worst violation to date. (I know he also burned the house down of a single mother, but but this is personal and invasive in a way that isn’t. Plus, it’s his own wife!) This leaves her zonked out throughout the party, Lee bafflingly asking her “What’s wrong with you?” repeatedly as though the answer isn’t him, and eventually getting high with Robin Shandrell– then destroying their bedroom and smearing shit on one of the portraits of the two of them.

Let’s back up into why Robin is there in the first place. Gamby, still not over Snodgrass despite his complete failure to even attempt a reconciliation, hears from Amanda about how Brian (Fisher Stevens) is going to be her date for the party and, unrelated, volunteers with local youth, so Gamby pays Robin $500 to be his +1 for the party and act like a respectful young man whom Gamby has helped turn his life around. Gamby goes to the trouble of buying Robin a dress shirt, which he promptly cuts up and patches.

The whole faculty and staff are at Lee’s party; Abbott of course has been throwing herself at Gamby all episode, and gets her opening when he’s jealous enough over Amanda to take Abbott onto the dance floor (Brian does needle him a bit). Then she proves her loyalty by roofie-ing Brian. This ends up endearing her to Gamby, who takes her home. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that both Abbott and Russell drugged people this episode; it says something about the parallel kind of crazy they are, the way they’ll go much too far, and it says something about Gamby that he seems drawn to these people despite his better instincts.

Meanwhile, at Russell’s request, Nash tries to use the intimidation tactics Gamby has instilled to eject Kevin from the party, hilariously to no avail (he does immediately leave the bathroom, however). Christine invited him after Lee confronted her, and eventually in front of the whole party– after Lee discovers a shit-smeared portrait and blames Robin for it– she confronts Lee over those rumors. Lee insists they’re true, and then tries to give a speech about how he is “a compassionate man,” which no one is buying. Christine gets to the core of his character: “You don’t care who you hurt, as long as Lee Russell gets what he wants!” Then she smashes his BMW with a baseball bat.

Russell was excited to have Superintendent Haas attend, but I think the message Haas is going to take from the party is a subtle, unspoken runner: Neal Gamby is constantly putting out Lee Russell’s fires, displaying a basic competency that Russell not only doesn’t have, but often makes worse by needlessly escalating conflicts. Gamby salvages the toast and does a pretty good job of defusing some of the other conflicts in the episode. Between that and the fact that Gamby won the teachers’ loyalty by standing up to the Sweat Dogs last week, I suspect we’ll soon see Haas conclude that Gamby is better suited to the job of North Jackson High Principal.

Russell’s burned bridges with his family. His home life is in shambles. His only remaining ally is Neal Gamby… and I strongly suspect Gamby is about to be offered Russell’s job. When Lee Russell loses everything, what steps will he take?


  • Dayshaun and Miss Swift were getting down at the party, huh?
  • I wanted to use a photo of Ms. Abbott this episode due to her prominent role. So I chose the funniest one I could find.
  • Some delightful exchanges this episode; I’ll try not to take them all, but I’ll give you a few of my favorites.
  • On Ms. Abbott:
    NASH: She seems kookoo beans, but she’s got a rocking bod. You could do worse. I’d fuck her.
    GAMBY: Then you fuck her. I’ve got other plans.
  • After Russell is rude to Robin and doesn’t want to let him into the party:
    ROBIN (obsequious): I brought you a present, Principal Russell.
    RUSSELL (softening): You did?
    GAMBY (skeptical): You did?
    ROBIN: Fuck no.
  • Gamby explaining Robin’s sartorial choices:
    “He wants to be a famous seamstress when he becomes a man.”
  • Russell singing along with Avril Lavigne in the car at the end of the cold open, oblivious to his wife’s feelings:
    “Here’s to never growing up!”
    That may, indeed, prove to be his downfall.