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
Welcome back to A Single Tom where things take a decidedly dark and melancholic turn right as we’re about to end the series. In fact, many members of the show’s staff consider this to be the true finale for the series despite Tim & Eric choosing the next episode being the last one to air as they felt it would have been too depressing to end the season on such a dire note. Just how bad does it get? Let’s find out!! It starts off as you’d expect it to with Good ol’ Tom Peters visiting The Mayor, but this time he has some sad news to deliver. It turns out his eldest stepson, Brindon, has just died. No seriously, the more or less FINAL episode of this series has one of Tom’s stepson’s dying a gruesome and violent death. Now I’m not a fan of HOW he died as it’s a rather mean spirited fat joke as he ate enough food during his birthday party to eventually explode, but the point is still made. Tom Peters, the man who can never face anything in his life, has to face one of the hardest things anyone would ever have to go through.
So now that Tom has an insurmountable emotional mountain to climb, what’s his first step? Well like all things in his life, he tries to compartmentalize it into some sort of structured event; starting with a memorial at his son’s school. It’s actually not a BAD idea, but this being Jefferton, no one can really muster enough of a crap to care about any of this, and most even outright laugh at Tom once he starts reading a poem he wrote for Brindon. We also learn that this poem was one that he had written initially for his mother when she had died while Tom was rather young, which tells me that Tim & Eric are trying to give him a bit more depth right at the end here similar to how the final season of Moral Orel was nothing but character building exercises for its principal cast. In fact, there’s a lot of Moral Orel in this series which is something I pointed out in the episode Rat’s Off To Ya, and Adult Swim has a good track record for giving seemingly inane and irreverent shows a sense of purpose and closure before canceling them. I mean if you’re gonna go out, go out swinging!
So after the assembly, Tom goes to a local restaurant called Puddins to further wallow in his grief. Why Puddins? Well the night that Brindon died, they were planning to visit Puddins after the party for desert, and since Brindon never made it there, he figured it’d be a way of getting closer to his son. Completely absent by the way is Joy and Brindon’s brothers who we didn’t see at the assembly, nor are they with Tom now. I guess it’s not TOO egregious considering the show has never made them fully fleshed out characters up to this point and there’s not enough time to do it now, but it still feels a bit odd that they don’t factor much into this story; either to assuage Tom’s grief or to be an active hindrance to his recovery. Since he’s all alone at Puddins (even The Mayor didn’t go with him), he talks to the Puddins Concierge named Paul (Paul Reubens) who convinces him to try Puddins’s WORLD FAMOUS Sample Town which is basically a reverse enema for your mouth of various and horrifying pudding flavors. Still, the utter ferocity with which this contraption funnels pudding into Tom’s gaping maw is enough to send him on a spiritual journey that allows him to see Brindon one last time. Now I’d just assume he’s having a hallucination due to how much pudding he’s ingesting at once, but let’s let the guy have a moment of peace!
After that, we see Tom sitting on a bench outside of Puddins as he’s regaling his deceased son with the variety of flavors he experienced; Zesty Tuna wasn’t any good, but Pinecone was the bomb! The Mayor FINALLY manages to stop by and sees him talking to no one in particular which raises a few questions, but Tom quickly explains that he’s sharing a moment with his dead son after having such a genuinely religious experience that was brought about by pudding. The Mayor takes all this to mean that Tom is on a Pudding Fast and he goes on to explain that some people in grief will only eat a certain kind of food that remind them of their lost one. Now this is definitely a thing as some people will try to uphold traditions and rituals to try and stay close to their loved ones which could include eating certain kinds of meals, or even just eating food to release dopamine as a way of coping with depression. With someone like Tom, such a specifically defined routine would be second nature to him and so he jumps right on board with the idea.
Now I’ve given Tom a massive amount of shit over the course of this series, but his grief in this episode is incredibly relatable and doesn’t really paint him in any significantly negative light. In fact, this is one of the few times where I genuinely feel the world is out to get him rather than him being unwilling to face the world honestly and confidently, and while everyone isn’t ACTIVELY trying to destroy him, he simply doesn’t have anywhere to go and is left to his own devices in order to overcome something that he’s just not equipped for. The montage following Tom’s chit-chat with The Mayor illustrates this perfectly as he’s spiraling into a deeper depression while the things that he’s told will help him don’t seem to be doing much, and he ends up sleeping in the dumpster behind Puddins; no one to turn to and no one who cares.
Actually, that’s not entirely true. In fact there is ONE person in town who seems to care at least to some degree about Tom and his suffering, and that’s The Mayor. Now to be fair, he basically does EVERYTHING in his power to avoid him for quite a while there, but when the situation cannot be avoided any longer (i.e. Tom breaks into his office) he at least gives him a place to stay for the time being. Okay, it’s just the office floor, but that’s more kindness than ANYONE else has shown him; even his family who has kicked him out of the house and is the reason he’s in this predicament in the first place. Again though, I don’t know how much I can blame them because Tom was simply not getting over it and it seemed to have been dragging everyone else in his family down with him, so maybe he DID need to leave for a while… but Joy could have at least made sure he had somewhere to go is all I’m saying! While Tom spends the night in The Mayor’s office, we see The Mayor go home and get the first glimpse of his life outside of work; a neat little bonus to throw to fans before the series comes to an end, though I expected a lot less wholesomeness and a lot more bodies on hooks. Oh, he probably just keeps those in the basement!
For Tom though, he doesn’t have that kind of stability in his life and so just sits there crying on The Mayor’s carpet; day in and day out… for months. And so our episode ends with Tom… just a miserable wreck of a human being.
During the commentary, Tim & Eric point out that both Tom and The Mayor are men going through the motions of what a normal person should do, and I think that’s the best description I’ve heard for their dynamic and the ethos of the entire show. Tom is a critical representation of Middle America’s utter complacency and he is constantly unsure of what is expected of him from a society that forms its identity around what it consumes. Now there’s nothing wrong with getting help when you need it, or engaging in Capitalism when everything is built on it (you go to your job to pay bills and you use your insurance to buy big pharma medication if you get sick), but Tom’s on the extreme end of things where he can barely function outside of the scripts that have been handed to him by television and super markets, so when something unexpected comes his way he usually reacts in one of two ways; trying to make the situation fit what society has told him like in Couple’s Therapy where he tries to improve his marriage when his wife wouldn’t even show up, or shut down completely like in this episode where nothing he feels he’s expected to do is helping him through the process. Likewise, The Mayor is also trying to fit society’s scripts, but less out of a need for some sort of structure than as a way to maintain control and manipulate the system to his whims, though this episode shows something of a gentler side of him that Tim & Eric admit is somewhat out of character on the commentary, but still feels pretty necessary for this particular story. I think that this is one of the best episodes in the series because it DOES take risks with the formula and lets our characters behave in ways they really haven’t before in order to get across a solid message about grief. Okay, it’s nothing GROUNDBREAKING, but it’s certainly strong enough to be among the best that the show has to offer. Similar to the way that Tim & Eric felt this was the way the show should end and that the next one is a bonus episode, I too think this is the best note to go out on regarding this recap series and that the next and final episode will be more of a bonus for completions sake.
In that spirit, what are my final thoughts on the series and has my opinion on it changed since I started this? For the most part, I still believe this to be one of the best written shows that Adult Swim ever green lit, and that Tim & Eric’s work has never been as strong as it was here. Granted, I would really need to do a deep dive into their post Tom Goes to the Mayor output to say that with any confidence (to date, the only other thing of theirs I’ve watched nearly as much as this show is Tim & Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie), but it feels like the perfect mix of their irreverent sense of humor and sharp satire of the less glamorous (yet by no means less important) aspects of our day to day lives. The biggest takeaway from rewatching the series however is that comedy really is the fastest genre to age poorly as several episodes that I thought were utterly hilarious not that long ago felt a lot less so when examining it under a much more critical eye, but that’s the nature of progress. If we couldn’t see a difference between what was acceptably funny then and how we are more caring and tolerant now, then THAT would be a serious problem! Like all media we consume, they are products of their time and there are parts of this that don’t work as well today, particularly the treatment of Joy Peters and its rather narrow focus on WHITE lower class angst to the exclusion of basically everyone else. If you have the chance, I do recommend watching it for yourself or picking up the DVD set as it’s not just a mostly hilarious, consistently sharp, and occasionally touching look into the minds of two very perceptive creatives, but one that I think is still relevant to this day; more so than I can say of other similarly positioned dark comedies with social satire (*cough* South Park *cough*). Like with Moral Orel it feels a bit too short as something as brilliant as this really deserves to have just a little bit more time to truly say what it needs to, but having fewer episodes to watch means you have more time to focus on having a fulfilling life and not becoming yet another Tom Peters. Learn from his mistakes, people! If you take nothing else form this series, let it be that we’re all capable of being so much more than what Capitalism and the society that perpetuates our sense of utter irrelevance wants us to be!
The Recap Recap!!
- Paul Reubens is the jaded Puddins Concierge who manages to get Tom hooked on Puddins pudding during his time of grief.
- Brian Posehn’s Gibbons and David Cross’s Todd show up very briefly in the video footage of Brindon’s fatal Birthday Party.
- Todd Barry, who is the big guest star in the series finale Joy’s Ex, also has a brief cameo during the Birthday Party.
- Bob Odenkirk plays Magic Man Gregory; a magician very clearly modeled off of Orson Welles that is the spokesperson for Puddins.
Tom Who Now?
- Not QUITE directed at Tom, but during a memorial assembly for Brindon, the banner spells his last name Pettres.
- His last name is also misspelled as Peterr on the sign outside the middle school.
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)
- One of the reasons Tim & Eric chose Brindon as the stepson to die is because the actor’s agent wanted their client to be paid much more than they could afford. I don’t know if they knew the series was going to end at season two at this point, but if the show had gone on, Brindon wasn’t going to be a part of it.
- Tim Heidecker wrote the poem that Tom reads for his stepson, and he decided not to proofread or revise it because he felt it was more authentic to leave it as is.
- There was a subplot cut out of the episode where Tom tried to have the buffet closed where his stepson ate himself to death.
- During the memorial service there are some trays of food out that The Mayor is helping himself to, and one of the dishes we get a close up of was actually mini-sausages in shampoo.
- Eric Wareheim always had Paul Reubens as one of the people he wanted most to have a guest spot on the series and they finally got him for this episode.
- Paul Reubens showed up to the office with one or two pink boxes of wigs for Tim & Eric to choose from for his character in the show.
- While they ultimately decided to end the season on Joy’s Ex, they consider it more of a bonus episode than anything else.
The Bonus Screenshot