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I guess I just like liking things

This episode starts off with a Veridian Dynamics commercial:

Veridian Dynamics. We’re the future of food. Developing the next generation of food and food-like products. Tomatoes the size of this baby, lemon-flavored fish, chickens that lay 16 eggs a day, which is a lot for a chicken, organic vegetables chock-full of antidepressants. At Veridian Dynamics we can even make radishes so spicy that people can’t eat them, but we’re not, because people can’t eat them. Veridian Dynamics. Food. Yum.

Last week we got the setup that Ted is a problem-solver, and many of the plots from here out center on ways Ted solves problems that any company other than Veridian would never have.  Right out of the gate in this episode we learn that the company’s “extra-fun mac and cheese” causes blindness if eaten more than twice a week, and it never gets hot no matter how long you cook it.  The bigger problem, though, is that Veronica is supposed to be presenting this mac and cheese to the shareholders in a week. Ted says he’ll work on it, but first tries to fix Veronica’s problem with small talk, which she’s trying out but instantly dislikes. Turns out she likes it fine if it happens to compliment her in the process. Portia’s little hand motion towards her hair is a perfect punctuation to the scene.

The paper towel dispenser sight gag is silly, but the real question is: why does Veridian have automatic towel dispensers (however lousy they may be) but not automatic faucets?

Meeting room scene time!  Turns out the closest thing in the pipeline to being done is beef grown without cows, explained in great scientific detail by Lem and summarized by Phil as “cowless meat grown in a lab.”  Phil is still making the noise from being frozen in last week’s episode, and in case you were wondering, the closed captioning spells that noise “Caaaaaaaaaaaaa!” Veronica squirts him with a water bottle to snap him out of it and then acts like no one knows how he got wet, suggesting that perhaps he urinated. “On my face?” he asks.

This, I think, is the beauty of the Veronica character. We have seen so many boss character types in so many different formats over the years – the mean boss, the fun boss, the clueless boss – and Veronica is a mix of several of those, but still unique. She’s often mean to the underlings, but it’s not a casual meanness because she’s a jerk, it’s more of a shortcut to get through the pleasantries most humans use to interact with other humans.  We’ve just seen her trying out small talk and hating it because it wastes so much time, so it makes perfect sense that she’d squirt an annoying worker to get him to shut up. She’s almost Vulcan in her logic in this regard, if she didn’t seem so exasperated by the timewasting she feels the “drones” engage in. The look on her face right before she produces the water bottle is exactly perfect.

Another fun thing that happens during the meeting room scene is a series of scenes based on what the legal department is theorizing has caused Phil’s noisemaking.  They, of course, do not want to admit liability for freezing him, so they’ve come up with other possible reasons. Lem’s celebratory dance during the paper football scene is hilariously terrible, and is especially funny when it’s revealed later in the episode that Phil and Lem are the best dancers at the office Christmas party.  I don’t remember the show having these flash…forwards? sideways? scenes throughout the run, so let’s keep an eye out for those in later episodes.

Linda gets to the meeting late because the “new automatic towel dispenser is a jerk,” and when she finds out they’re working on cowless meat, she dubs it “creepy.” Ted’s response to her is “At least meat grown in a test tube doesn’t feel pain,” immediately followed by “please tell me it doesn’t feel pain” to Phil and Lem.

In the lab, we see that there’s still tension between Lem and Phil.  And Phil wants to name the meat blob “Blobby. Like Bobby, only with an L.” “Don’t name it or you won’t want to eat it,” Lem warns. “Remember Chester the carrot?” “Yeah,” sighs Phil. “I miss him.” Jonathan Slavin has mastered the faraway thoughtful look and it makes us miss Chester, too, even though we never even saw him.

Now we have another hint at Linda and Ted having a relationship. Linda is stealing more creamer, claiming it makes her calm.Veronica shows up and wonders why there is never any creamer, and Ted blames ants and then ghosts and then says he doesn’t know. I just love that ghosts was the second thing that came to his mind. (It reminds me of Joey’s “Paper. Snow. A ghost!” answer on Pyramid on Friends.) Then Veronica says that Phil’s still a problem, because the company is worried he’ll sue. Problem-solver Ted suggests rewarding Phil, giving him an award to make him feel good about what he did.  This gives birth to the Trailblazer of the Year Award, which also comes with a week’s access to the executive dining room. Phil’s speech to the gathered execs starts off with the fantastic “Cryonics. The first syllable is ‘cry’ so how great can it be, am I right?”

The cowless meat is ready for its taste test, so we’re off to meet Jerome who has returned from the hospital after testing the extra fun mac and cheese. They scraped some of the “extra fun” off his optic nerve, so he’s ready to go (aside from not being able to see green).  His verdict on the cowless meat?  “It tastes like … despair.” That won’t work, so it’s up to Phil and Lem, but, wait, Lem happens to also be down in the basement when Ted and Linda are leaving the testing area (an incredible coincidence!) and tells them he can’t work with Phil anymore.

Veronica fixes Phil’s ego problem by pretending to flirt with him and getting him to sign a waiver saying he won’t sue the company. Phil is so cowed by her presence he falls for it easily, then heads back to the lab with his overinflated ego no longer a hindrance to his work. Lem’s still aggravated, though, and Ted explains it to Phil (and us) that Lem was hurt that Phil agreed to be a frozen for a year, leaving Lem alone. They work out their differences and start working on the cowless meat.  That shot of the paint-can-shaker-stirred meat pouring out was really, really gross to me. And I love that they use a square of the itchy chair cloth from the last episode to cover the blob overnight. Nice callback! Also great: Ted’s line “I’m gonna say no to the blob getting a mouth.”

They fix the problem and the taste test comes back positive!  …but it costs $10,000 a pound, so it’s not viable just yet. Still, Ted’s team solved the problem. I love how happy Phil and Lem are after they’ve forced Jerome to taste the latest attempt.

Now Ted is solving the last problem by replacing the creamer Linda’s been stealing. She not-so-subtly suggests that he could help her relieve her stress in some other way (she’s talking about sex, people!), but ultimately decides that sitting by the automatic towel dispenser and waving her hand in front of it every two seconds to waste resources is the way she’ll go for now. Again, silly, but we can’t have Ted and Linda getting together just yet – we’re only two episodes in!

Ideas/Inventions mentioned in this episode:

  • Extra fun mac and cheese
  • Cowless meat
  • Retinal scan technology
  • Next generation of pepper spray
  • a Cyborg that can kill without remorse (but can’t tell the difference between soldiers and children)

Coworkers named/seen:

  • Lonny, another lab tech
  • Julie in employee services who wanted Phil’s autograph (defining characteristic: she has breasts)
  • Jerome, the food taster
  • Richie and Fuzzel, other scientists that Phil and Lem do not want to work with
  • We also meet Patricia, but she is not named in this episode, so don’t count her yet


Next week: S01E03 – “Through Rose Colored HAZMAT Suits”

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