Super Recaps: Tom Goes to the Mayor (Bear Traps)

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Tom Goes to the Mayor and all the images you see in this recap are owned Warner Bros and Adult Swim

Created by Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim

We’re back with another recap of Tom Goes to the Mayor!  Okay, TECHINCALLY this is the first one as the one we did before was for the online shorts they did prior to getting an ACTUAL show, but whatever!  This is the TRUE pilot for the show which begins with good ol’ Tom Peters, having just moved to Jefferton with his wife Joy and his three stepchildren, going to see The Mayor of Jefferton to run some ideas by him.  The best way to describe the pilot is that it’s rather blunt with what it’s about; essentially the blueprint from which most of the episodes of this series will be built upon.  You have some minor crisis in Jefferton (usually made up), Tom comes to the Mayor with an idea on how to fix it, the Mayor exploits Tom’s desire to be successful by twisting his ideas into something horrific, and Tom ultimately goes along with it until it all comes crashing down on his head.  We’ll be seeing this kind of story throughout this recap series, but most episodes tend to throw a bit more conflict or motivation than what we get here which leads to an episode that lacks any real subtly or ambiguity, but at the very least it does lay the groundwork for character dynamics and several of the running gags.  Speaking of which, Bob Odenkirk has a cameo in almost every episode and the one he has here helps to set up the primary conflict.  The Mayor is watching an infomercial on his computer starring Mike Foxx (Odenkirk) who has a Scared Safe program to raise awareness for all the things that could kill children including Wind Poisoning, Sand Rash, and Deadly Crickets.

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“Eye Poking, also known as Giving the Moe, is the fourteenth number one killer behind Communism and Electric Swirlies!”

That’s a pretty solid starting place for an episode as it’s kind of a sendup of DARE and other child protection programs that no one gave a shit about in Elementary school.  Hell, if you want to get REALLY depressing and relevant, you could even draw a parallel between Mike Foxx and guys like Alon Stivi who teach kids how to NOT get shot in school while we all continue to do nothing about gun control.  From there though, things get shall we say… simplistic.  Tom comes by to present his ideas for protecting kids which amount to… nothing.  I mean, the closest thing he seems to have come up with is the idea of a Safe Space but since this is Tom Peters we’re talking about; he’s only gotten about as far as this drawing.

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“As you can see here, his eye beams can’t penetrate the impregnable fortress that is the Safe Zone.”     “Okay Tom.  Now what is the Safe Zone made out of?”     “Uh… well.  Darn it…”

Similarly, The Mayor’s way of perverting this idea to his own sick ends lacks even the tiniest semblance of reason behind it, but then again Tom isn’t giving him much to work with.  The Mayor naturally twists Tom’s plan which is now to put THOUSANDS of bear traps all over the city in the hopes that criminals and bad guys will run into those on their way to attacking children; thereby creating a Safe Zone I guess.  Now there is one REALLY good thing about this episode, and that’s the guest appearance by Tenacious D members Jack Black and Kyle Gass as the owners of two Bear Trap stores that The Mayor enlists into his wacky scheme.  Their big moment will come later, but for now The Mayor calls them up just to see if they have the inventory for an order of this size.  They clearly don’t, but Jack Black at least knows how to bluff his way through it with his endless well of charisma.  With that taken care of, all that’s left is for Tom to prepare a presentation for the City Council so they will approve the new project.  Now this scene with Tom’s PowerPoint is pretty funny where he admits that children will PROBABLY die if they implement this plan, but it feels a bit undercut because of that core issue to this episode.  The script doesn’t give him any personal investment to the outcome or even a reason to believe in this project (which he clearly doesn’t), so there’s no drama or stakes to this scene and it just ends up relying on the awkwardness of the situation to carry it.  That doesn’t mean it’s not FUNNY, but it’s definitely an area where the series will improve upon in subsequent episodes.

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Sure, kids may DIE… but look at the graph!  It’s not like we don’t have dozens of the same kid already!

Naturally, Jefferton’s City Council doesn’t approve of the plan because of the potential of GREVIOUS bodily harm, so The Mayor has to come up with a new way to convince them which leads us to the best part of the episode.  With Tom as the director, The Mayor sets up a musical of sorts for the City Council to see in order to persuade them to vote yes on his horrible plan, and of course they have Jack Black and Kyle Gass star in it; basically making this an unofficial Tenacious D track.  The show has a lot of really great musical moments in the episodes to follow, but this one also has the benefit of a really well thought out production that is completely absurd while staying at that sad and painfully realistic level of quality that you’d expect from a local theater group in a shitty small town.  Still, how many of THOSE get JB and KG to be in them!?

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“You can’t kill The Metal, which is what bear traps are made of!”

Somehow, this ridiculous performance is enough for the City Council votes yes on the matter (probably from sheer bafflement or deflating resignation), which means The Mayor can finally lay down all those bear traps throughout Jefferton.  Feeling overwhelmingly pleased with himself, he stages a celebratory event in the middle of Jefferton Park where he gives a speech about child safety before handing the Key to the City over to Tom for his tireless dedication to the project.  Tom’s truly feeling accomplished right now, even if he’s not ENTIRELY comfortable with the plan, and is more than happy to take the Key to the City… but tragedy strikes just before it’s in his hands.  Bear traps start going off all around town as many MANY children are caught in them and are screaming out in pain as their limbs are pierced and start spewing blood.  Even one of his stepsons gets caught in a trap and all he can do is look on in horror at what he has wrought.  The Mayor though, unfazed by any of this stares directly back into the camera and says “Safe at last” before the episode comes to a close.

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The worst part is… this dude will STILL get reelected.  Damn you Gerrymandering!!

There’s no doubt that other episodes are going to handle this kind of story line much better, but this is far from the worst episode of the series.  Don’t worry, I’ll TELL you when we get to one of THOSE!  This just feels a bit too standard for at least the first half of it, but things do improve in the second half with the big bear traps production number and the damn fine ending to the story.  The dynamic between The Mayor and Tom will be much better defined as the series goes along, but even this early into the series they managed to solidify a great deal of what the show would ultimately become (probably due to them having done shorts with these characters beforehand) which is why this still manages to work as well as it does even if it’s not quite there yet.

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The Recap Recap!!

Celebrities Galore

  • Tenacious D front men Jack Black and Kyle Gass are competing Bear Trap salesmen who come together on The Mayor’s new project… in song no less!
  • Not so much a celebrity guest as this is a running character, but did you know that City Councilman #1 (the one with the mustache) is Ron Lynch; the same actor who plays Ron on Bob’s Burgers?

Here’s Bobby!

  • Bob Odenkirk plays Mike Foxx this episode; the TV pitchman for Scared Safe. Also the first instance of live video in the series which would become a running theme for most television seen within the show.

Tom Who Now?

  • A running joke of the series is that despite Tom Peter’s being a very common and simple name, most people have trouble spelling it. They don’t really do it in this episode, but there IS a scene where a sign for the Bear Traps musical uses a backwards 3 instead of an E when spelling Tom’s last name.

Fun Facts from the Commentary
(NOTE: Since Tim & Eric are… well Tim & Eric, anything said on the DVD commentaries should PROBABLY be taken with a grain of salt)

  • There are a lot of firsts in this episode because… well it’s the first episode, but it’s also the first appearance of The Mayor’s secretary Renee who won’t be in the series for very long. Tim & Eric decided that having Tom sit in a waiting room at the beginning of each episode would be redundant after a while.
  • The original script for the pilot was supposedly about three hours long where all the backstory was filled in and all the dynamics were painstakingly laid out.

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The Bonus Screenshot

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At least they aren’t trampling on his Second Amendment rights!

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