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 Mad About Tom, and while his wife Joy may be mad about him in one definition of the word, she’s certainly not mad about him in the more flattering version of that idiom. What did he do this time? Well let’s find out!! The episode begins not with the familiar Tom Goes to the Mayor theme, but instead with a Public Service Announcement regarding an issue that is near and dear to all of our hearts. Keeping Janeane Garofalo employed! Okay, not that, but Janeane Garofalo IS in the PSA to deliver a message about endangered Oil Turtles. As it turns out, Jefferton’s efforts to clean their man-made lake have in fact been a detriment to the wellbeing of Oil Turtles who need pollution to survive. This is all sounding a bit fishy, but Janeane seems sure that the solution is to dump more oil into the lake, and The Mayor agrees as we pull the camera back and realize that we were in his office the whole time! MAYOR SHOCK!! Okay, that’s probably not worth a MAYOR SHOCK, but it does mean we can jump right into the Tom going to The Mayor part of Tom Goes to the Mayor as we see our hapless hero come by with some rather disturbing news. Apparently Jefferton’s power company put a giant electrical tower right in the middle of Tom’s yard which has caused a few fires already as well as the fact that his step sons are developing giant tumors because of it. It’s actually a bit of an urban legend that power lines can cause cancer, but really there hasn’t been any studies that confirm the kind of electromagnetic fields they produce (non-ionizing) that can link it to cancer, so I’m guessing it’s less a power line and more of a Hell Machine that The Mayor is DISGUISING as a power line, and I’m pretty sure its function is to do nothing BUT give people cancer.
Naturally The Mayor doesn’t seem too concerned, but he’s willing to shunt this off onto his new assistant just because he likes the guy so darn much! Things get rather awkward however as The Mayor goes to dial them up and Tom’s business cell starts to ring. No, Tom isn’t leading a double life as a competent government employee (as awesome of an episode as that would be), rather The Mayor is trying to contact Tom’s wife Joy who recently took up this position at The Mayor’s office without telling Tom. That doesn’t explain why his phone is on Joy’s contact list (unless it’s actually HER phone and he’s just borrowing it), but to make matters worse it seems that Joy has been keeping her marriage a secret from The Mayor and… I guess anyone else she works with. I mean after () left the show, The Mayor seems to handle everything on his own. Now he’s working with Joy… alone… Dang. Even The Mayor realizes how… let’s say “rocky” this marriage is and suggests that Tom and Joy attend a Couple’s Therapy cruise hosted by relationship guru Pat Lewellen (Garry Shandling) that conveniently sails in the Jefferton Man Made Lake. There’s gonna be trust building exercises, Mexican-American cuisine, and even Oil Turtle sightings in case you thought that opening bit with Janeane Garofalo was entirely pointless! Well that sounds perfect, right? Tom being perpetually unemployed also means that he can certainly find time to do it, so I guess it’s time to climb aboard the SS Healthy Communication! Two problems though. One, I don’t think that’s what the boat is actually called, and two, Joy can’t make it. Well, I say CAN’T make it, but chances are she didn’t WANT to go and so Tom is there all by himself which I guess could STILL be a worthwhile experience if he ends up actually learning anything there. Oh wait, he DOES manage to find himself a partner as The Mayor is onboard for some reason, and with him around I’m sure Tom will learn absolutely nothing. In fact, The mayor is making things actively worse because Tom is getting “random phone calls” from a “strange man” asking about what Joy’s doing right now. All I can say is that Captain Pat has his work cut out for him!
Garry Shandling is fantastic in this role by the way as the clearly self-loathing self-help guru who definitely feels they are above this crappy place they found themselves in (if he’s so good at getting other people’s life on track, why the heck is he in Jefferton?), and no doubt he’s not the least bit prepared to deal with Tom and his myriad of issues; especially with The Mayor on the other side of him making things worse. He’s not the only one though as Tom is unable to get in touch with Joy, and the man-made lake is close enough to his house that he can see strange men going in and out of his home which only makes it that much harder to concentrate on improving himself and becoming a better partner. Oh well! Maybe a good bit of shuteye will help him clear his head so he can start fresh tomorrow! That’s gonna be a big ol’ NOPE I’m afraid as Tom is not only sharing a room with The Mayor, but The Mayor is making lewd phone calls to Tom still thinking this number is for Joy.
From there we get a montage of Tom and The Mayor going through some relationship building exercises which is indeed pretty funny, but if you couldn’t tell already the biggest flaw with this episode is that Tim & Eric still refuse to make Joy into an ACTUAL character and prefer to leave her as a one note joke; going so far as to basically cut her out of the episode entirely when there was so much potential to get into the nitty gritty of their marriage and what Joy ACTUALLY likes about Tom. Heck, if we find out that she married him for entirely self-serving reasons, it would AT LEAST be something we know about her which would then give us some greater insight into Tom as well. Now there is ONE scene in here where we do get a small peek into what makes Tom tick as one of the couple’s exercises is body painting where everyone else is going all freeform and having fun with it, but Tom is SO wound up as a person that he takes it way too seriously.
That’s some great stuff right there and I wish the episode had more to say about that (honestly The Mayor ends up distracting things a bit too much for Tom to really be introspective), but it’s about time to wrap things up and Tom makes a decision. Yes, our pal Good Ol’ Tom Peters manages to actually make a choice of his own free will rather than just go along with what everyone else is doing! Maybe he DID learn something here! He is determined to go back to his wife and confront her about the strange men who keep going in and out of his house, so he jumps overboard and swims back to shore; followed close behind by a bunch of Oil Turtles who seem to have taken a liking to him for some reason. Anyway, Tom rushes through the front door, heads to the bedroom, and finds his wife there surrounded by about three men who are doing some very freaky stuff in there involving chains, pulleys, and strange electronic equipment. Tom DEMANDS to know what’s going on here, and it turns out… Joy is having a toilet installed in the bed which is something she had already told him about a dozen times. Well then. That doesn’t quite explain why The Mayor is making inappropriate calls to her, but I’m glad he finally got up the nerve to do something! Then again, maybe busting down the door to accuse your wife of cheating on you based on spurious evidence and failing to remember something she already told you was PROBABLY not the best start for the NEW AND IMPROVED Tom. Oh, and of course Joy’s only contribution in this episode is for a toilet joke because Tim & Eric really don’t know how to write women or people who are large without making it one big joke. Don’t worry though! Tom gets his comeuppance because those Oil Turtles who followed him from the man-made lake are crawling around Tom’s yard. You remember! The yard that now has an electrical tower that causes periodic fires? Let’s see… turtles covered in oil plus random fires… well you can probably guess what happens from there. The whole place blows up and the electrical tower gets launched right into Pat Lewellen’s cruise ship; injuring everyone aboard including The Mayor. What, you didn’t see that coming? Yeah, somehow when the Oil Turtles catch fire it causes a chain reaction that lifts the tower off its foundation and aims it JUST right so that it smashes into the boat on the nearby man-made lake which is an impressive feat in its own right I guess, but I doubt the survivors will find that aspect of it all that remarkable. And so the episode ends with Tom failing to do much to help his marriage and causing massive amounts of mayhem in the process! You know, like the way MOST of these episodes end!
I actually like this episode quite a bit, but since it’s another episode that’s at least SOMEWHAT about Joy it’s hard to look back on it in hindsight without having some serious reservations. The fact that Tom married into a family with three kids and a wife who seems to have no respect for him brings so much pathos to the table, and yet it feels like this is the one area where Tim & Eric just didn’t have a lot to say so they just swung for the cheap seats. The kids don’t have much to do in this series (so much so that they were renamed halfway through it) and they never found a use for Joy outside of fat jokes and pushing Tom around. This is a show that had brilliant insights into obsessive and rose tinted nostalgia (Pioneer Island), the coopting of Holiday Goodwill by corporate entities (Rats Off to Ya), and the plight of the everyman trying to hack it in a cruel and often unfair economy (Porcelain Birds), yet they just kind of threw their hands up at making Tom’s relationship to his family into something more than a one note joke. Now this does do a decent job with Tom and his own sense of insecurities as the cruise ship does reveal a few neat details about him as well as the big dramatic ending which is a somewhat cathartic moment for Tom (before it all comes crashing down on him of course), but I wish that they did a better job of integrating his development with the humor instead of it often feeling like separate elements fighting for screen time. Hey, at least The Mayor gets his comeuppance for once as he gets seriously hurt in the explosion at the end! Sure Tom isn’t much better off due to the explosion at his house that started the chain of events, but I’d say it was worth the sacrifice!
The Recap Recap!!
- Janeane Garofalo shows up as herself to do a PSA about saving the Oil Turtles!
- Garry Shandling plays Pat Lewellen; the somewhat disgruntled yet entirely professional self-help guru who runs a Couple’s Therapy cruise out of Jefferton’s man-made lake!
- Sadly Bob Odenkirk doesn’t show up in this episode, though his absence is somewhat lessened by the two very solid guest stars!
Tom Who Now?
- At one point in the episode, Tom starts imagining him and Joy getting a divorce and it showing up in the local paper. Even in his dreams however, someone manages to misspell his name as the headline calls him Tom Petres.
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)
- Art director Kevin Gallegly discusses what a big leap it was from season one to season two in terms of the size of the production and the resources they had to work with which you can see in how many more details and how big the ideas get in this season over the first.
- Garry Shandling was a very hard guest to get on the show, but when he did agree to be on it he was very invested in the character and worked with Tim & Eric on all the lines he had.
- During the production of this episode, everyone in the office started coming up with movie title puns with Garry Shandling’s name and posted them to a wall. Some were clever like Shand and Deliver while others were pretty bad like One Flew Over the Gary Shandling.
- Kevin Gallegly points out that this is one of the few times The Mayor is negatively impacted by Tom’s actions, and Tim Heidecker makes an offhand remark that you could argue he’s actually an android.