‘Vice Principals’ Recap and Reaction: “The Foundation of Learning”

Vice Principals hasn’t been particularly consistent throughout its first six episodes, with only a thin line of meanness running through it to maintain some semblance of tone. This week’s episode, “The Foundation of Learning”, separates titular vice principals Gamby and Russell once more. When the two are together, it’s comedy gold, when they’re apart, it’s more like comedy pyrite. Last week’s “Circles” featured a bitter war between Gamby and Russell that resolved itself in a spectacular way, so it (wrongly) appeared this week would have more Gamby/Russell goodness.

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Instead, the episode splits Russell and Gamby into two different plot threads. Gamby is still trying to woo sweet Snodgrass, while Russell has concocted an elaborate scheme to get Dr. Brown in trouble with the school board. Russell orders and steals 600 literature books. To frame someone else, he has the paperwork signed by the beloved head of the English department, Ms. LeBlanc. Russell and Gamby then team up to plant ideas in Brown’s head about LeBlanc. They insinuate that she has no respect for authority and has stolen textbooks in the past. The whole scheme is actually pretty smart, and sets the fiery Brown up to land flat on her face.

Meanwhile, Amanda Snodgrass has been having a fling with the hunky science teacher from the field trip. Unfortunately, but he ends it abruptly “because of their schedules”. Snodgrass wants to continue the fling and so she makes a deal with Gamby to get her schedule moved around. In order for Gamby to change her schedule, she must teach him how to pop a wheelie on a dirt bike to impress his daughter. In one of the show’s rare moments of sweetness, Snodgrass agrees and helps Gamby ride around the athletic field. (Snodgrass used to ride motocross with her brothers, so her expertise is much better than Gamby’s.)

Gamby indeed learns to pop a wheelie (“go twelve o’clock” in the biker vernacular) and rides alongside the football field to the amazement of the practicing players. Snodgrass is thrilled, both for him and herself. There are hints of mutual affection between these two, though Gamby’s social awkwardness and habit of overstepping his bounds taints it. Snodgrass takes her new schedule to her beau and tries to arrange an impromptu hook-up. It appears that he has already replaced her with his new Teacher’s Assistant, however, and he suggests the three of them study together.

Heartbroken, Snodgrass goes to cheer Gamby on. He fails spectacularly, embarrassing everyone and almost injuring several bystanders. That’s one plot thread ended, so what about Russell?

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Russell’s plan goes almost too well. This is Vice Principals after all, and nothing ever works out the way its supposed to. Brown and LeBlanc face off in front of the school board regarding the missing textbooks. Things get heated and pretty ugly, and Gamby heads over to the warehouse to double-check and see if the books have turned up. They have, of course, courtesy of some late-night work with forklifts. A note gets passed in the school board meeting that the books were there all along, making Brown looks ten times the fool.

Back at the office, Brown is lamenting this turn of events while Russell tries to reassure her that it was all LeBlanc’s maneuverings. He offers to make her some special coffee, and right as he is about to hawk a big chunk of snot into it, she enters the break room. She caught him in the act and knows now that Russell has been manipulating her. It’s going to be a very costly mistake for Gamby and Russell, and for once it may be Russell’s fault.

Both of the vice principals did poorly this episode, though Gamby at least got to spend some quality time with the woman he’s been crushing on. Brown has caught on to their act (or at least Russell’s), which is going to change the way the dynamic works entirely.

Vice Principals biggest problem is still its constantly changing tone. Sometimes the show is fiercely mean, with pitch black humor and a heavy dose of nihilism. Other times it appears to have a heart, or some facsimile thereof, especially in the interactions between Gamby and the people he cares about. This going back and forth between bitter hatred and sad attempts at kindness only leaves the viewer feeling uncomfortable and ultimately depressed.

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Best Moments

  • Gamby and Snodgrass’s ride around the field is really cute. There are a few awkward moments with Gamby getting handsy, but even he recognizes his wrongdoing. It’s a brief moment of people treating each other with something close to respect in a show otherwise void of it.
  • LeBlanc and Brown’s initial showdown in the classroom. Every high school has a badass older literature teacher like LeBlanc. Watching her verbally destroy the otherwise unflappable own was delightful.
  • The score. For some reason, this entire episode was scored with an 80’s electronic vibe. Scenes of Gamby and Russell backing a school bus full of stolen textbooks featured music that sounds like it belongs in Drive or even a video game. It’s sort of bizarre, but it makes the scenes more fun and therefore works.
  • The look of pure terror on Russell’s face when he knows he’s been caught spitting in Brown’s coffee.

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