Vice Principals thus far has been one of the meanest, nastiest shows on television. Featuring two of the most despicable protagonists in recent TV history, it has revelled in cruelty and bad behavior. The best moments on the show have been those where vice principals Gamby and Russell have done terrible things to each other or other people. These guys aren’t anti-heroes, they’re just jerks.
Last week’s episode, “The Foundation of Learning“, hinted that Danny McBride’s Gamby might actually have a heart. This week, in “The Good Book”, the show flips its switch and lets some of the goodness in the characters shine through. It’s as close to heartwarming as a show this pitch-black is going to get, but it feels refreshing after so much bitterness.
“The Good Book” is centered around a teacher workday. Russell, played with flamboyant aplomb by Walton Goggins, is thrilled to have a day without children around. Gamby is the opposite. He needs to be able to discipline the students to feel useful. Gamby is also dealing with the fallout from his shameful display at his daughter Janelle’s motocross rally. She has banned him from attending, and he feels as if she is abandoning him entirely for her stepfather, Ray.
Principal Brown shakes things up by giving Gamby a job to do and having Russell babysit her two rambunctious sons. Gamby tours the school with new secretary Ms. Swift, checking the ceiling tiles for signs of water damage. While he is still abusive with Swift, Gamby softens it a bit and teases her instead of being directly mean. When teacher Amanda Snodgrass comes asking him to make her breakfast, however, Swift is quickly sent away on some errand. Gamby’s relationship with Snodgrass has been steadily improving, especially following her motocross lessons in last week’s episode.
While making breakfast, Snodgrass and Gamby almost kiss. It’s cute and awkward and funny in a sweet kind of way. Neither of them knows where they stand, and it’s clear that they’re both unsure of what to make of their budding romance. The thread continues through the episode, with Gamby defending Snodgrass and her unpublished young adult novel in front of the other teachers. He takes advice from Russell on how to insult people and gets the whole table laughing, and it’s surprisingly charming. While Gamby is a mean, unhappy guy, he’s a product of his environment. No one at the school is without fault, and most of them are viciously petty.
While Gamby is having the best teacher workday ever, Russell is having the worst. Brown’s boys are more than a handful, and Russell’s attempts at making them behave are futile. They harass him, escape twice, and eventually end up smoking weed on top of the baseball dugout. The only thing the three of them really have in common is a fear of Dr. Brown, and when Gamby informs Russell of her return to the office, they scramble to get back. Reminiscent of the hallway scene in The Breakfast Club, the scene is the episode’s funniest. Russell and the boys grip each others’ hands while they race through the halls, trying to avoid Brown and get back in time. When they do make it, they pretend to be reading a book together, serene as can be.
Brown is still suspicious of Russell after she caught him spitting in her coffee, so he’s trying extra hard to get back on her good side. When she asks him how things went, and he replies with “good”, however, she tells him he’s a “lying sack of sh*t”. So much for making things better. Russell is clearly doing poorly, while Gamby seems to be doing well for once. He even shares a moment with Brown when the two of them both go to the same secluded spot in the woods to gather their thoughts.
Brown is having problems with her ex-husband, who snuck into the school to see his sons. Gamby chases him down and forcibly removes him from the premises, though he confronts Brown on the way out. She is angry with him – she caught him in the act of cheating on her and her sons saw everything. Gamby tells her about his own daughter, and how much he hates losing her. The two actually manage to connect with one another. When her ex returns and begs her to see the boys, she relents because of what Gamby told her. It’s borderline heartwarming.
Also heartwarming is Snodgrass and Gamby’s final moment in the episode. Gamby is on the roof, looking out at his domain like Simba in The Lion King when Snodgrass brings him her manuscript to read. The two end up kissing passionately. It’s possible that more happens, as Gamby later recounts to Russell that he banged the hottest teacher in school, but there’s no telling with Gamby. His newfound joy is quickly interrupted, however, when his ex-wife calls to tell him that Janelle has been in a bad accident on her bike. In his attempts to rush to the hospital he wrecks his car (and two others), so Russell has to drive him to the emergency room.
Once there, Gamby hugs his daughter tight. She has been calling for him, and he tells her “I’m here, I’m here for you.” Their genuine love for one another is tangible, and as the camera pans over to Russell in the background, he looks forlorn and jealous. What truly separates the two characters is that Gamby has love in his life, even in small doses, while Russell seems to be a vacuum for it.
- The aforementioned hallway scene. The way Russell and the boys run around in terror is hilarious, and their scramble through the air-conditioning vents is pitch-perfect.
- Gamby delivering some of Janelle’s items to her at her mom’s house. It’s super awkward but also pretty comical since he’s treating his daughter being mad at him like some kind of break-up.
- The opening sequence, when a lone student wandering the halls is confronted by Russell. He shoos the student, telling him, “we need a day without children, please.”
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