Like so many other episodes of Another Period, “Switcheroo Day” has a lot going on. Yet, unlike some episodes where competing storylines and the raucous bits they engender derail the show in—let’s be honest—dumb ways, here everything coheres. The difference may come down to a matter of confidence. Where earlier episodes hadn’t fully hit upon Another Period’s distinctive voice, more recent episodes display a confidence and wit that works well for the show’s comedic take on the popular upstairs/downstairs dynamic.
The show is growing up and quickly, leaving behind comparisons to TV shows like Burning Love or The Hotwives of Orlando, which may have been apt parallels in the beginning. Now Another Period is finding its own place in a sea of spoofs and satires and goofy fun. Creators Natasha Leggero and Riki Lindhome both display strong, original voices in their stand-up, and the show has better used those unique voices as the season has progressed. With “Switcheroo Day,” viewers get the full balance of smart and silly that makes Another Period work so well.
In “Switcheroo Day,” Lillian hires Hamish (Brett Gelman) to kidnap her and things go horribly awry; Dodo orders Mr. Peepers, disguised as her husband, to attend an event held at Mark Twain’s (Rich Fulcher) house and things go horribly awry; and Beatrice mistakes Blanche (Beth Dover) for a friend when the latter momentarily puts on the former’s dress and things go, you guessed it, horribly awry.
In an interview with Paste Magazine, Leggero expressed a deep interest in the antecedent to the desperate-to-be-famous personality type ruling reality TV. It’s easy to imagine Lillian as Kim Kardashian’s great-great-grandmother, a woman who desires fame and will go to any means to accomplish her goals. Those means, thanks to her limited position at the time, rely largely on desirability. (And really has much changed since then?) Lillian is valued because she is wealthy and beautiful and white, rather than for her intellect or ability (beyond childbirth).
After reading that the Stringburger Baby has been kidnapped, Lillian sees a means to achieve her fame-focused ends. Her abduction fantasy, which she believes involves “a short sabbatical followed by international acclaim,” quickly goes sour. Rather than the 1900’s version of a spa-day, Lillian gets a lesson. Calling her “Little Piggy” and forcing her to clean his floor and peel a potato with her mouth, Hamish exposes her to the world many women experienced when money didn’t buffer them from that reality. It’s degrading and depends largely upon men’s needs and whims.
The tension between Lillian and Hamish reaches a head, eventually turning sexual. But when Lillian goes from resistant to enthusiastic, Hamish can’t keep his erection, explaining to Lillian, “It kind of ruined things when you said you were into it. Not that I didn’t want you to be into it, but I just didn’t want you to tell me that you were into it. It ruins it for me.” She sarcastically albeit softly responds, “Next time I’ll be sure to cry and vomit.” It’s one of the show’s more biting moments about male-female sexual dynamics, especially as they relate to control and power, and the quiet with which it lands speaks volumes. Rather than exacerbating the scene for comedic effect, there exists more commentary than comedy. There is no punch line here.
Perhaps the episode’s best storyline occurs when Dodo and Mr. Peepers attend a luncheon at Mark Twain’s house, where Leon Trotsky (Matt Besser) and lawyer-not-yet-turned-revolutionary Mohandas Gandhi (Ravi Patel) are both in attendance. Discussing the exploitation of the working class, Trotsky and Gandhi exchange harsh words (Gandhi says to Trotsky, “No offense, but it sounds like you belong to the bitch-caste”) and nearly come to blows. In an irreverent turn, Mr. Peepers gives an inspired speech about non-violence to which Gandhi remarks, “Non-violence, I hadn’t thought of that…because I’m not a little bitch.” In the way Another Period does so well, history collides in the Bellacourts presence and famed historical figures get a cheeky reimagining.
Besides exploring history in order to make fun of it, the show most often lampoons the eccentric and bizarre behavior wealth breeds. After throwing one of her regular temper tantrums, Beatrice shares in an interview, “’Emotions aren’t something I understand, but I just keep screaming until I get my way, vomit, or get my way.” A Kardashian method through and through, and one of the ways Another Period continues to be silly while actually being smart.
Amanda Wicks is a writer specializing in comedy and music. She has also written for Consequence of Sound and The New York Observer. Follow her on Twitter @aawicks.