Recap: The League, “Tefl-Andre” (6×02)

We knew it could never last, but I hoped Tefl-Andre might eke out a slightly longer existence than this. After a promising season opener, this episode is a bit of a letdown, heavy on callbacks (Russell! Doak! The Oracle!) and guest stars but light on laughs.

The downside of the semi-improvisational nature of The League is that if the actors aren’t connecting with the material, there’s not a lot of recourse. The banter ends up falling flat and the jokes are overworked. In addition to the strained humor, “Tefl-Andre” is scattershot, throwing a lot of things at the wall, but few of them stick.

It’s surprising then, that the writers chose to jettison a promising new dynamic so quickly. Tefl-Andre not only gave the gang some unease, throwing them off balance and forcing them to re-evaluate their roles, but it gave Paul Scheer a chance to show off his cooler, more likable comedic chops. (More like Robby Z. from Burning Love than the Andre we know and pity.) It turns out that Andre’s “success in all endeavors” didn’t come from a radical self-reinvention, but from Fox Sports’ Jay Glazer in thanks for a substantial donation to Glazer’s charity, Touchdown Dreams. Yes, Andre outsourced both his team AND his insults. While Andre managing to hang onto Glazer’s help for a longer period of time might have strained credulity, realism is not something to whichThe League aspires, so I’d trade that for funny any day.

The other chief plot – Ruxin exploiting Baby Geoffrey’s induced puberty for personal gain – suffered from being completely and totally predictable. Early seasons of The League excelled at bringing together plot pieces in creative ways to end episodes with a manic bang (think Taco’s naginta, Kevin’s ex’s hand job skills, and Kevin’s comely penis in “The White Knuckler”). However, here, as soon as Chekhov’s testosterone gel and Geoffrey’s shitty athletic skills are introduced in the first act, we know exactly how the third act will go down.

And true to form, Geoffrey’s Ruxin-enabled juicing is given away by the fact that the “six year old Tom Selleck” has extremely oversized balls. This unsurprisingly happens immediately after Geoffrey’s team, coached by a partner from Ruxin’s firm named Bethesda (Rob Riggle), wins the Little League championship. Ruxin’s dreams of a new tax bracket are dashed and because Ruxin is a tool, Pete and Kevin delight in his misery. Besides the questionable nature of using a kid’s genitalia, enhanced by willful child abuse, as a punchline, the story’s a yawner.

(Speaking of believability, what Little League holds its championship in the first week of September? Just saying.)

The search for Ted’s replacement is the strongest thread this episode, helped along enormously by Rob Huebel’s deadpan delivery in his third appearance as cured-but-not-really-at-all sex addict Russell. Russell considers joining the league, because he’s better and into wine now, which is not at all addicting. Kevin, who is charged with sealing the deal, gets hazed in Russell’s place. Russell’s attempts to get him to seal the deal (you know, with his penis) humiliate Kevin when the guys hear him not exactly refuse. As overplayed as some of the other dynamics are on the show, the fact that EVERYONE and not just Jenny emasculates Kevin makes this one stay amusing as they find new depths for the character to plumb. Jenny, unlike the men, is actually supportive of Kevin’s attempts to fix his boner problem, because all orgasms count, juiced or not. (Guys: this is true.)

As of the end of the episode, our S&M obsessed sommelier Russell is still filling Ted’s spot in the league. While I’m always grateful for more Huebel, I’m fairly certain this isn’t going to last. Because watching football in a wine bar with only one TV sounds AWFUL, and not something to be endured.

Odds & Ends

– Pete joins the board of TacoCorp and is now part of the noble undertaking that is the Eskimo Brother Database, the LinkedIn of a sexually liberated world. (Also, as a chick, I bet Eskimo Sister ties would be just as, if not more, potent a networking force. Note to self: get on that.)

– Andre has a zebra-striped iPad cover and a replica of the Dre statue on his desk. TacoCorp’s board room has a chart of board members by height and an ironing board as a meeting table. The set dressers and prop folks were the real heroes of this episode.

– I understand that because early episodes of each season film well before the season starts, there’s going to be relatively little content directly related to this season’s NFL and fantasy football concerns. That said, I miss it.

– List of baseball juicer names that Jenny and Ruxin call a testosterone-challenged Kevin: Barry Boner, Sammy SoHard, Jose CantSexo, NoRod. And Kevin totally gets points for Jenny’s orgasms even if she’s thinking about her ex, Ben. (Because everyone gets a free pass for Ryan Hansen.)

– Favorite line of the night: Pete telling Andre, “Your cockney is in your mouth.”