How do I possibly review an episode of Broad City as wonderful and flawless as “Coat Check”? Just based solely on the decision to cast Ilana Glazer’s eerie doppelgänger/hook-up Alia Shawkat (the resemblance is something that many fans, myself included, have been pointing out since the web series began), “Coat Check” gets an A+, a 10/10, case closed. Add in everything else — vaping in the coat closet, Abbi getting plastered with Kelly Ripa, an interrupted orgy, some guest stars — and you get one of the most entertaining television episodes of the year.
Thanks to Jaime, Abbi and Ilana have a gig working the coat check for a fancy party and spend most of their time getting high in the closet while making fun of the rich owners of the coats. But when Abbi screws up, she accidentally gives away Kelly Ripa’s coat and, despite the actress’ understanding, is determined to track it down and return it to her. (By the way, the best part of Abbi’s whole exchange with Kelly was Abbi nervously claiming her name was “Hope” and “Faith,” referencing the absolutely awful sitcom Ripa starred in, and that I watched every episode of — recently).
While Abbi is dealing with returning coats, Ilana is trying to find a “the most beautiful stranger” (Shawkat) with whom she locked eyes with earlier that night. When she does, it’s a glorious meeting of two similar (in looks and actions) women: sniffing at each other like in-heat dogs before immediately making out and then sharing a cannoli (in a very Lady and the Tramp type way) before taking off together. Ilana and Adele’s relationship immediately takes off, with Ilana sporting some impressive hickeys the next morning and sharing the details with Abbi: “I had my first simultaneous orgasm last night and Adele and I only kissed. I think this is what love must feel like.” But Abbi points out the obvious: Ilana only likes Adele because Adele looks just like Ilana.
Putting that aside from a moment, Abbi and Ilana now take off on their Kelly Ripa’s Coat Adventure which first leads them to an apartment where an orgy is currently taking place and then to a second location, where a guy (David Wain) returns the coat (but not without a fight) to Abbi, who then brings it to Kelly. At Kelly Ripa’s apartment — where Abbi is told to take off her shoes and put on a pair of sneakers —Kelly is grateful to have her coat back and invites Abbi for a drink. Wine turns into moonshine turns into drugs that will “just give us trippier visuals.” Broad City does a great job with the “celebrity plays a fictional, out of control version of herself” trope, with Kelly starting off tame — who doesn’t like to drink some wine, or maybe even moonshine, once in a while? — and then gradually becoming totally crazy, tossing gift baskets off her balcony into the street and ordering hookers for her and Abbi — an action that causes Abbi to finally bail.
That brings us back to the Ilana/Adele plot, the beautiful femslash of my dreams. I’m sure I’ve praised this before but I really love how Broad City how handles Ilana’s queerness by specifically not handling it. There is never any explicit moment in the series where Ilana “comes out” or where any of the characters talk about her sexuality, or when anyone is surprised by anything that she does. Part of it has to do with the fact that it’s Ilana and there is not much that’s off limits to her but most of it is because Broad City has established itself as a show that turns the radical into the commonplace (like pegging or rape culture discussions) which, in turns, sort of turns back into radical. It’s a casual, matter-of-fact approach to storylines that would have other television series bending over backwards with self-congratulations. Broad City isn’t about the “Let’s have a big lesbian scene with Ilana to show how cool and progressive are” approach but rather sticks with the comedy-first approach of “OK, how do we make this lesbian scene as funny as humanly possible?” So “Coat Check” never needs to explain anything further than “Hey, Ilana has a pretty impressive sex drive.” Ilana hooking up with Adele is treated the same way as Ilana hooking up with any man — and why shouldn’t it be? It’s a refreshing moment on television, one of the queerest (and best) things I’ve seen in a while. I’d say I wish more shows were like this, but then that wouldn’t make Broad City so special.
But anyway, as Ilana and Adele are hooking up, Ilana is haunted by Abbi’s comments that Ilana’s only interest in Adele is due to their similarities. When Adele goes down on her (“Yas queen!”), Ilana briefly imagines that she’s going down on herself, and freaks out, prompting her to ask Adele if she also realized how much they look alike. Adele was aware of this from the very beginning and owns up to the fact that this similarity is what attracted her to Ilana in the first place. Ilana comes to terms with it, too — “Of course I’m drawn to myself! I masturbate in a mirror!” (“Me too!” Adele adds) — and though there are plenty of benefits to this relationship (Adele knows exactly where Ilana’s G-spot is), Ilana breaks it off. But she still wants to be friends for, you know, “organ donation or jury duty.” Well, at least until Adele reveals that she doesn’t smoke weed and Ilana promptly shuts the door on her. Farewell, Alia Shawkat, we miss you already.