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 episode of Tim & Eric’s West Wing as Tom navigates the ever shifting and duplicitous world of Jefferton’s politics! The episode begins on an unexpectedly somber note as good ol’ Tom Peters visits The Mayor to deliver some bad news. It turns out that the barely functioning town of Jefferton that is ruled by a megalomaniacal despot is not the ideal place to raise a family and start a business, so Tom will be moving away very soon. Well it makes sense to me that he wouldn’t want to stay and get sucked into The Mayor’s further adventures into destructive absurdity, ESPECIALLY after the events of Re-Birth, Vehicular Manslaughter, Porcelain Birds, you get the idea! Despite all that though, the two men (one of whom barley know who this strange fellow is that has entered his office) have a good cry about the tragic turn of events that fate has taken them as they remember the good times they had together. IS THIS THE END OF TOM GOES TO THE MAYOR!?
Hold your horses! This isn’t over yet! The Mayor has a brilliant idea that will keep our intrepid entrepreneur from pulling up stakes, running as fast as he can out of this hell hole, and finding a fulfilling life elsewhere! The Mayor will appoint Tom to be his Vice Mayor; a position that I’m sure pays slightly less than being a cashier or panhandling for nickels, but is still better than Tom’s usually strategy of being unemployed between Mayoral Schemes and Entrepreneurial Ventures. It’s also PROBABLY the exact amount of responsibility that Tom should be trusted with as the little research I’ve done on the position indicates that it’s mostly a ceremonial role and he would only be called in for ACTUAL governance to break city council ties (unlikely considering there are only three members in Jefferton’s) and filling in for The Mayor if he’s ever indisposed (also unlikely because I’m pretty sure The Mayor feeds off the misery he causes others and doesn’t get diseases like a mere mortal would). Without a moment’s hesitation, Tom accepts the position and rushes home to get ready for his new job; including getting a whole new (still ill fitting) wardrobe and a fancy perm to show the world that he means business! So what’s the catch, as I’m sure you’re all expecting one? Well it turns out that he’s not necessarily the Vice-Mayor so much as he’s the Vice Mayor, i.e. he’s The Mayor of a small sectioned off area of Jefferton commonly referred to as Hobo Town. See, vice ALSO means immorality which is normally what you’d expect in a politician albeit not as blatantly announced. There doesn’t seem to be much of a criminal element anyway as most of the denizens are old timey hobos with bindles and patched clothing, but I guess it’s harder to trick someone into taking the position if it was called Homeless Mayor. That just sounds like a job with crappy benefits!
Now usually when Tim & Eric write an episode around an issue, they tend to have some rather interesting commentary (or at least some seriously biting humor) about the subject at hand, however there’s really not a lot to chew on here regarding the state of homeless legislation and the way that society tends to perceive them as simultaneously a convenient victim class to exploit for their own ends (why should we be focusing on THIS when there are still good honest Americans living on the streets!?) and a parasitic group of people out to exploit the goodwill of others (The bums lost, Mr. Lewbowski). There’s just not a lot of depth to any of htis as the backdrop of Hobo Town is just there for laughs and the homeless that populate the town are cartoonish throwbacks; similar to the romanticized version of them we portray in entertainment though not done with any sort of irony. Still, being the mayor here at least gives Tom something to do (as well as something to screw up) and his first act as mayor is to try and reduce the psychological scarring of living in a place called Hobo Town by renaming it to Hoboton and painting his office a nice cheery color! Despite some minor setbacks regarding his job description, he seems to at least be TRYING to make things better in his own ineffective sort of way but as is the fate with ALL politicians, temptation comes a knocking as he’s soon being accosted by a friendly land developer named Garry Friendly (Fred Willard) who offers him cheese flavored fries in exchange for a moment of his time! It turns out that Garry wants Tom to sign the town over to his development company to more or less gentrify the place, and all he needs is Tom’s signature on a few documents as well as a huge check. Now obviously this sounds like a scam, but Tom is intoxicated by those delicious cheesy fries and simply doesn’t have the will power to resist Garry’s silver tongue. Damn it, Tom! You had ONE JOB!!
So of course, the shit hits the fan almost immediately as bulldozers and wrecking balls start smashing their way through Hoboton with little to no regard for the box dwelling citizenry occupying the area. In a vain attempt to rectify the situation, Tom tries calling Garry Friendly who’s already boarding the Lyle Lanley Express and gives Tom a fake number to call to get more help. Clearly Tom has a big ol’ mess only his hands and he has no one to blame other than himself, but he has at least one idea to at least stall the situation until he comes up with a better plan!
Welp! Now that the homeless are locked tight inside Tom’s house (don’t worry, he left them hot dogs!), he can go and try to get some advice from The Mayor about being A mayor and hopefully they can brainstorm a way out of this situation. Well… things don’t quite go as planned as the homeless end up breaking out almost immediately and start running amuck in the town of Jefferton; forcing many of its citizens (including the City Council and Tom) to hole up inside Gulliver’s Buffet until the situation resolves itself or at least until they can properly reprimand Tom. Fortunately for the home owning citizens (not so fortunately for the homeless), The Mayor managed to infiltrate their ranks and have discovered their one weakness! HOT DOGS!! We cut to sometime later where The Mayor has organized a big celebration in Jefferton Park for their homeless brethren; complete with hot dogs and even a rock show from a guy named The WizZard (FORESHADOWING!!) played by Bob Odenkirk. Tom’s a bit skeptical of this plan though and asks The Mayor what he plans to do once the party is over, but when he finds out he’ll wish he never asked. You see, The Mayor had POISONED ALL THE HOT DOGS, which he neglected to tell Tom until after he had eaten a few himself. MAYOR SHOCK!! Well… not quite. It turns out the poison isn’t Cyanide; rather it’s Rohypnol and The Mayor will be putting all the homeless in a giant zoo while they’re all passed out from the drugs. What about Tom who’ll soon be asleep as well? Sorry bro, but The Mayor can’t start making exceptions for people he likes! He has to be fair and will just dump everyone into the zoo who fell asleep, even those who have houses; albeit a really crappy one in Tom’s case. And so the episode ends with the homeless population of Jefferton being all the more dehumanized as they’re left to be stared at by their fellow citizens who see them as lesser just because they’ve fallen on hard times. Seems like a harsh fate for all involved… except for Tom of course. Considering how badly he screwed up, maybe he’s better off behind bars for a while to think about what he’s done.
There are a lot of great moments in here, and I LOVE the idea that Tom is basically doomed to fail even when he’s given all the opportunities in the world (a rather effective critique on privilege), but there are some missed opportunities that I wish they had taken advantage of. Now if you pay attention, you CAN see some critiques of how governments (especially on the local level) try to deal with homeless issues, but the messages about hiding the problem instead of fixing it don’t have as much bite as they should because the homeless people in this episode are portrayed as cartoonish and folksy throwbacks than as living breathing people within the world of Jefferton. We’ve got people yelling about cardboard boxes and calling Tom “boss”, but no mention of LGBT youth who are a huge part of the homeless population or how mental illness and our rather lacking social safety net to help people with those conditions end ups exacerbating the problem. Now that’s not to say you HAVE to make every episode or every topic discussed into an expose of institutionalized oppression in our society, but in trading in a more genuine (or at least scathingly direct) story about homelessness for an Oh Brother Where Art Thou costume party, I don’t think this episode holds up as well as it could have. Silly episodes are fun to watch and the more satirical ones leave you thinking more than you’d expect to from a show that is this ridiculous, but this episode falls right in the middle which is FINE and still better than plenty of other shows at their peak, but that also means it’s not one of the best the series has to offer.
The Recap Recap!!
- Fred Willard plays the land developer Garry Friendly who tricks Tom into buying a redevelopment plan for the small borough; effectively destroying the delicate ecosystem that has left the homeless out of sight and out of mind in Jefferton.
- Bob Odenkirk makes his first appearance as The WizZard; front man for the band Kandle Krush.
Tom Who Now?
- At certain points in the episode, we cut to The WizZard in live action segments promoting his appearance at the end of the episode, and he refers to the show as “Ted Goes to the Mayor”.
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)
- The guest commentator for this episode is Erin Bell, credited as an Assistant Production Coordinator, and a good chunk of the commentary is Tim and Eric trying to get her to talk badly about the other one. She primarily takes Eric’s side.
- Fred Willard is a personal hero of Tim Heidecker and was one of the top three celebrities he wanted to get for the show. According to Erin, he was particularly hard to turn into the trademark “blue” once they got the photographs back.
- Originally Tom was supposed to be poisoned to explain why he signed the contract, but they decided that eating too many cheese flavored fries was reason enough.
- One of the actors playing a hobo brought salsa to the studio and refused to leave after they got the pictures. Sadly they don’t explain how they eventually got the guy out of the studio.
- Erin was the one who gave Bob Odenkirk the WizZard’s trademark hat.
- An early version of the script had Tom physically moving the entire town to escape the invading hobo masses.