After Vice Principals’ third outing last week, it looked like the show may have lost its momentum. Thankfully, Jody Hill picked up the directing reins for episode four, “Run for the Money.” This week’s episode featured lots of Walton Goggins and Kimberly Hebert Gregory, who are both fantastic. Star Danny McBride is great in smaller doses, and his work in this episode is much better than last week.
Things are not going well for Dr. Belinda Brown. Her house has burned down, her sons are misbehaving, and students from rival school Percival High have defaced North Jackson. The vandalism is part of a decades-long rivalry between the schools. North Jackson hasn’t beaten Percival in a homecoming game for nine years, and so both students and faculty seem resigned to lose again. Brown forbids anyone from retaliating, which bothers Gamby because he’s a fan of tradition. He is also the only person who seems to think North Jackson can win, and his desperate hope is endearing.
Goggins’ Russell decides that the rivalry is the best way to destroy what’s left of Brown’s resolve. He and McBride’s Gamby join the Percival high schoolers on their next round of graffiti in order to make it personal. They each don sheep masks that don’t quite match the students’, but they blend in enough to get away with spray paint horrible things about Brown all over the school. The crew also let a flock of sheep run loose through the hallways. It’s a fun scene that echoes Russell and Gamby’s whirlwind of destruction in Brown’s house two episodes before.
Despite Gamby’s desire to take down Brown, he doesn’t want to do anything that hurts North Jackson. He tries to stop Russell from smashing the school’s trophy case and only spraypaints things directly related to Brown. Later, he tells Russell that he’s not willing to take down Brown at the expense of the school. Russell doesn’t care and would burn the school to the ground if that’s what it took to get back at the woman he loathes so much. The characters are starting to become more fully developed. Russell seems to hate everyone (except possibly his wife) and is a bona fide sociopath. Gamby is a bumbling idiot, but he wants what’s best for the school. He also longs for a better relationship with his teenage daughter, which is kind of sweet.
Brown’s character is also more fully developed in the episode. The opening sequence depicts a brawl with her sons at the hotel where they’re staying. The three of them end up yelling and wrestling with one another on the hotel walkway, where a very traditional family of four sees them and hastily goes into the next room. Brown can’t control her boys, who really want to move back to Philly. Seeds of doubt are planted in her head as well when the fire investigator tells her that he believes the cause of the fire that took her house was arson. She blames the boys, who love to play with fire and have plenty of motive to burn down the house. Later, when she breaks down crying after the second round of school vandalism, her boys reassure her that they didn’t do anything. (We know they didn’t, of course.)
While there has been evidence of Brown’s accomplishments, there hasn’t been much shown of her skill as a principal up until this point. After the sheep-running and a subsequent visit to Percival High, she decides to take matters into her own hands. She attends the school’s not-so-pep rally and takes the microphone. Her speech is profanity-laced and a little stereotypical regarding her race and gender, but it’s also fantastic. She launches into a rousing monologue about school pride and not letting anyone put her down. By the end of it, the entire gymnasium is in a joyous uproar, and Russell and Gamby realize that their opponent has some skills.
Everything comes down to the big game. The principal of Percival is a caricature of upper-class entitled feminism, and seeing her face off against Brown is delightful. In order to ensure that North Jackson loses, Russell attempts to lace the team’s water cooler with LSD. Gamby stops him and the two wrestle over the cooler. Both of them get soaked with the LSD-laced liquid and the look of horror on Russell’s face is perfect. Gamby, in his typical ignorance, doesn’t understand until Russell tells him that LSD can be absorbed through the skin. The two then try to maintain a semblance of calm while going out to watch the football game.
The acid trip is hilarious, and North Jackson wins the game. Brown runs onto the field and is carried by the team. She’s a hero now, a martyr. The school has embraced her, which will make it much harder for Gamby and Russell to take her down. Gamby doesn’t seem to mind though, as long as North Jackson won. His loyalty to the school above all else will likely be an important thread through the series.
- After the second attack on North Jackson, Brown, Russell, and Gamby take a little trip to Percival High School. The school is the polar opposite of North Jackson, with lots of money and a massive pep rally. Percival’s principal is pumping breast milk when the trio barge into her office, and it’s both hilarious and uncomfortable.
- Gamby’s affair with teacher Ms. Abbott continues. The two have an interlude in the janitorial closet, and afterward, she channels her inner stage-five clinger. Gamby, in an attempt to get her off his back, tells her he loves her. It’s a mistake that will cost him.
- Dr. Brown’s speech is great. Despite her awfulness in previous episodes, the character is turning out to be much more three-dimensional.
- Gamby and Russell’s acid trip is great. It’s ridiculous without being over-the-top psychedelic, and when the two eventually hide under the bleachers to watch the game it’s perfect. After North Jackson wins, Gamby turns to Russell and asks him how long they have to stay there (until the acid wears off). Russell, deadpan, replies “This is our life now.”