Broad City: “Rat Pack”

Given New York City’s notoriously high rent, it makes sense to wonder how Abbi and Ilana even manage to afford their apartments in Broad City. “Rat Pack,” the fourth episode of Season 3, plays with the contrast between the women’s love of nice things (food, men, homes) and their readiness to sink or rise to extremes given the reality of their less-than-ideal circumstances. They respond to questionable circumstances with clever logic that, though it leads to an entertaining evening of cat and mouse, doesn’t exactly improve those circumstances.

The primary conflict in the episode stems from an uninvited rodent guest in the apartment Ilana shares with her roommate Jaime. An exterminator charges an exorbitant $400 to remove the rat, leaving the roommates shocked and saddened. Yet when a mysterious gourmet food basket shows up at their door, they seize the opportunity to socialize. Jaime assumes the gift is from his parents, who may finally be showing their support for him and his sexuality. He takes the opportunity to decorate the apartment more, invite new friends over, and truly nest in the self he believes to be more accepted now. Ilana’s on board with the idea of a party—as long as there’s a cover charge so they can make back their cash—and Lincoln relishes the challenge of plating and presenting the fancy food for the guests.

 

Abbi shows up at the party in a funk, having share an impromptu romantic moment with her boss Trey at work. Instead of telling Ilana, she goes in search of intimacy elsewhere, joining Tinder. Ilana greatly supports the idea of inviting matches over to the apartment, where they can add to the cover charges for the night. A sequence of interactions between Abbi and her various matches shows that no one really seems to match his profile.

As Lincoln tries to be the party’s Chopped champion, the hosts quickly realize that the rat’s still there, creeping around, despite the $400 they’ve lost. They do their best to distract the guests so as not to lose the money, but things only get worse when the delivery guy shows up again to retrieve the gift basket, which was really meant for another building. Pretty plating turns to ridiculous repackaging as Jaime realizes the basket wasn’t for him, Ilana tries to keep the rat a secret, and Abbi cycles through disappointing Tinder dates before finally settling for a makeout session with the delivery guy. They end the night right back where they started: without cash, without new friends, without hors d’oeuvres, but with rats, with each other, and with the day at least finally over.

The lifestyle these characters enjoy is at once adventurous and dangerous, delightful and in need of disinfectant. They make do as best they can, but sometimes they try so hard to be the sort of comfortably living, professional, home decorating twentysomethings they want to be that they end up even more down on their luck. Abbi’s so confused by a kiss with the boss she’s not interested in that she spends all night failing to find something better, while Ilana and Jaime go to great lengths to make their apartment seem inviting only to be denied the basic ideas on which they based the party: the rat being gone, making some cash, enjoying some free food. In this episode, the rodents really win, while the humans owe more, eat less, and feel lonelier. It’s tough surviving in a maze of crumbs, especially crumbs of gourmet cookies. Although it isn’t one of the show’s funniest or most optimistic episodes, “Rat Pack” rings soberingly true for anyone trying to make ends meet.

Final Grade: B