Super Recaps: Tom Goes to the Mayor (Porcelain Birds)


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

And now it’s time for a very important episode of Mad Money with the part of Jim Cramer being played by Tim & Eric.  That’s right!  Tim & Eric are gonna talk about get rich quick schemes, only without the false promises that stuff like this actually works!  Heck; that alone makes this a better show to learn about finance from than Mad Money!  The episode begins with The Mayor watering his precious porcelain birds; an obsession I wasn’t aware of prior to this episode but I guess The Mayor just enjoys making his birds wet.  Anyway, Tom comes by to pay The Mayor a visit and to see if he’d be willing to sign a petition that will save the Jefferton Bird Sanctuary from being shut down and the land sold off to the highest bidder.  Seems like a noble cause, right?  Well The Mayor doesn’t seem to be as optimistic and instead just burns the whole petition to a crisp; destroying the signatures of five thousand Jefferton citizens who have already signed!  Seems like a dick move to me, but that’s because I didn’t understand The Mayor’s INGENIOUS plan that he had cooked up to save the sanctuary!  Remember those porcelain birds he was oh so eager to continuously spray down?  Well what he proposes for Tom is to INVEST in porcelain birds; assuming that they’ll go up in value and can be sold at a higher rate in the near future while of course letting him have one of those birds for free!

“Something doesn’t seem right here…”     “Just focus, Tom.  Focus on this triangle right here.”     “It looks kind of like a pyramid to me.”

Now The Mayor describes this as an investment, but it’s ACTUALLY speculation bordering on scalping; the same kind of crappy get which quick scheme that rubes got suckered into with comic books in the nineties, Beanie Babies in the late nineties, and is the same kind of mindset currently infecting the retro gaming market.  Let’s take a moment to break this down.  What needs to happen for Tom to make money off of this venture?  The value of these porcelain birds (the assets) must increase enough so that reselling them will generate enough profit (that’s money AFTER paying back the initial investment cost) to purchase the Bird Sanctuary as well as offset the investment of time and effort to pull this off in the first place; the time it takes to sell them and any applicable processing fees including proper shipping and handling.  Heck, even if he’s willing to eat the eBay fees and the cost of bubble wrap, we’re still talking about a HUGE sudden surge in the market (this would be Bit Coin levels of unrealistic skyrocketing value) to get the kind of return on investment needed!  Let’s just say hypothetically that the demand for these things do indeed increase to the levels that would potentially make the birds a worthwhile investment.  A speculative market doesn’t really work as long as the manufacture is still producing the product and can ship them in quantities to meet demand which SEEMS to be the case considering how many birds Tom is able to purchase in a single transaction!  The ONLY way that he could potentially sell his birds at a profit is if the porcelain bird company jacked up their MSRP astronomically and Tom had a chance to sell his off at a price between what HE paid originally and what THEY are now charging; a situation that seems REALLY unlikely to happen!  Remember, Nintendo still hasn’t jacked up the MSRP on the NES Classics despite the demand being there; and I’m guessing THOSE are harder to mass produce than the porcelain birds Tom is buying.

This investment is riskier than Neo-Geo collecting!

Oh well!  In for a penny, in for almost a hundred grand!  Tom maxes out his credit card at The Mayor’s behest to purchase the birds and brings up his radical new plan to City Council who was expecting a simple petition but is instead listening to this mealy mouthed jackass try to explain a bird scheme that he himself doesn’t really believe in.  The City Council member on the left (Mustache Guy) suggests that if he’s gonna go down this road that Tom has these birds professionally appraised to determine their value which would be a GOOD idea if they weren’t obviously dealing with mass produced, assembly line, tacky paper weights, but he and The Mayor take their chances on a traveling appraisal television show; a cute little take on Antiques Road Show that’s made all the more hilarious by Edward Herrmann who plays the snooty appraiser.  He and I seem to be on the same page about these birds as his best suggestion would be for Tom to melt them down into toilets to recoup some of his money back, so I guess it’s back to square one as far as saving the Bird Sanctuary.

Tom was punished for his crimes with the slime of shame.  He didn’t survive through the night.

So what’s plan B to save the Bird Sanctuary?  Well The Mayor ends up going to said sanctuary to look for inspiration and indeed finds it as he stares at the Bronzing factory that’s right next door.  The Mayor decides that Tom should bronze the porcelain birds in an attempt to increase their value; something that would seem incredibly ludicrous on its face but is actually something that happens in certain collectors circles.  Now in some cases this would make sense like when someone gets a comic book CGC graded and has it put in a sealed case; letting everyone who’s interested in the book know it’s exact quality (removing all ambiguity of it’s worth) and protecting it from further damage.  In OTHER cases though like when you slab a video game console or bronze some stupid birds, you’re just throwing money away to entice prospective buyers who probably weren’t even interested in your stuff BEFORE you put a completely arbitrary premium on top of it!  Still, Tom goes through with the bronzing which admittedly gives us a VERY funny scene with John Ennis as the guy in charge of the bronzing factory.  He’s probably the most down to Earth character in the show as he’s simply doing his job (while mildly perplexed) and there’s a nice absurd moment where Tom tries to object to the whole thing, the ONE time he tries to stand up for himself, but ends up unable to raise his objection as he inexplicably comes down with an incapacitating sneezing fit; like some sort of weird auto-immune reaction to momentarily growing a spine.  With no way to physically stop The Mayor, the birds end up bronzed which is paid for with the deed to the Bird Sanctuary, and he has them reappraised.  GUESS HOW MUCH THEY’RE WORTH NOW!?

Tom seems to have not learned his lesson, so this second dose of shameful slime was laced with mercury.  He didn’t survive through the hour.

And with that, all is lost.  The Bird Sanctuary gets demolished to be replaced with a new wing of the Bronzing Plant, and Tom has no way to pay for the birds that he already purchased as well as no way to returned them now that they’ve been bronzed.  The Mayor suggests that they UN-bronze them (at yet another fee of course), but the process turns out to be somewhat archaic as it leaves the birds bronzeless but also completely shattered; just like Tom’s hopes and dreams.  We fade into the next scene which picks up some time later as The Mayor is sitting in the middle of Jefferton Park waiting for Tom to arrive.  It seems that Tom’s been staying with his friend Gibbons for the time being (FORESHADOWING!!) since his wife threw him out for very obvious reasons, and is trying to just lay low until the heat dies down.  The Mayor wants to apologize for the whole thing and has come up with something that will hopefully make Tom feel better, even though the only real thing that could make things right at this point would be a check.  Instead, The Mayor took all the scraps from the shattered porcelain birds and made a monument to Tom right in the middle of the park; a giant freaking toilet.  WHAT A PRIZE!  It’s not all bad though because the birds from the sanctuary seem to have taken roost around the giant bowl symbolizing Tom’s utter failure at life, so maybe all hope isn’t lost.  Even in the darkest of times, there may just be a ray of hope or smidgen of joy that can remind us all that life always has something to offer.  In this case it may just be a giant toilet, but take your victories where you can get them!

“IT’S THE CIRCLE OF LIFE!!”     “It sure is, guy.”

A lot of people consider this to be the best episode in the series, and while I can think of at least one that I enjoy more than this, it is absolutely a high mark for the show.  It not only has some of the best absurdist humor that Tim & Eric have ever come up with, it’s also really sharp and on point; portraying a somewhat realistic scenario that people can get themselves into and finding the humor in its utter tragedy.  Heck, you don’t even have to look that far to find people like Tom Peters who got caught up in a huge scam and lost everything in the process (*cough* Bit Coin *cough*), and it’s not like these kind of stories are told all that often in… well I GUESS you’d consider this a sitcom of sorts, but whatever you label it, it’s not something that you see often in televised comedies.  This is the kind of episode that gets to the root of what Tim & Eric truly bring to the table and why their comedy resonates so well with people.  Lurking underneath all the silliness and the poop jokes is an undercurrent of sadness that is borne from the utter emptiness of the middle American lifestyle that we all fall into to a certain extent and it’s the kind of atmosphere of uncultured mass consumerism that many of us try to escape from either by leaving our small towns when we grow up or trying to find a community (usually online) that can keep us from feeling isolated within the lowest common denominator world we’re stuck in the middle of.  Now in real life, there’s a lot more nuance to this, what with many of these communities simultaneously being the kind who willingly get duped by con artists like the current bastard we call president while also suffering from the horrifying effects of the opioid epidemic that is only making things that much harder to make things better.  Still, I think there’s value in Tim & Eric’s simulations mockery and compassion for the Tom Peters of the world; those who know that there’s more to life than what they’re currently stuck with, but don’t seem to have what it takes to break out of their routines.  I think this episode (along with Rats Off To Ya) perfectly encapsulate that idea and it’s probably why it stands out as so strongly for many fans of the show.  Good job, you guys!  Now let’s see if you can do it again next time!


The Recap Recap!!

Celebrities Galore

  • The host of the Antiques Road Show knock off, How Much, is played with great dignity and class by Edward Herrmann; even when the slime starts flowing!
  • John Ennis played the down to Earth bronzing factory owner who walks Tom and The Mayor through the in depth and fascinating world of bronzing things!
  • Legendary comedian and voice actor Maria Bamford voices both the Porcelain Bird infomercial seen at the beginning of the episode as well as the National Porcelain Bird Center representative who confirms Tom’s order!

Here’s Bobby!

  • His only contribution this time around is during the How Much segments. Whenever Tom got hit with the slime, a voice in the background (Bob Odenkirk) can be heard shouting “SLIMED!!”

Tom Who Now?

  • When the representative from the National Porcelain Bird Center calls to confirm Tom’s order, she refers to him as Mr. Peter.

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)

  • Uh… well, there really isn’t any.  Bob Odenkirk is on the commentary with them, and they just crack jokes for the episode and point out scenes they thought were clever.  Bob Odenkirk DOES mention that the final gag in this episode (the weird bird at the end) gave him the biggest laugh up to this point in the series, so that’s something at least!


The Bonus Screenshot

“You are tearing me APART, Jefferton!”


If you like this recap and plan on buying the show, then use the Amazon link below!  I’ll get a percentage of the order it helps keep things going for me here at The Reviewers Unite!  In fact, you don’t even need to buy the item listed!  Just use the link, shop normally, and when you check out it will still give us that sweet, sweet, percentage!  You can even bookmark the link and use it every time you shop!  HOW AWESOME IS THAT!?

Tom Goes to the Mayor – The Complete Series


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