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“Latka’s Revolting”

Not available for streaming; there are some pretty good deals on used DVD copies of the second season on Amazon.

What dates sitcoms more than anything is not briefly-popular clothing, music, or slang used in the show, but how it interprets the world around the show. For example: In “Latka’s Revolution,” Latka learns that revolution has come to his presumably Eastern Bloc (though the show is so apolitical that any mention of the Soviets is buried deep in the subtext) home country, and that he is a general in the rebel forces. (As these things go.) He decides to leave, feeling more strongly about his obligation to fight for his country than to his new home. The cabbies throw him a party at the bar (Latka brings brefnish, dark green liquor from the home country that knocks Alex out, in two jugs), and for potentially the first time in the show’s run, everyone is seemingly happy for most of the episode.

It would be difficult to imagine this episode taking place today, though. Since 1979, when this aired, Europe’s physical conflicts all but disappeared, and the Middle East’s already-raging battles, resulting from years of bad European actors and colonialism, became the focus. It’s difficult to imagine an immigrant character from a country in wartime to star on a sitcom today, as poll after poll after poll after poll after poll has showed that Americans all over the country are giving in to their baser beliefs as Donald Trump and others tap directly into the vein of white American hatred. And since people in wartime countries are no longer even white, American pop culture has largely stopped paying them even lip service. Latka’s country is an apoliticized joke, and yet he as a character, with ambitions and everything else, is taken seriously by the show.

Accepting the episode on its own merits, though, it’s more light and fun than most Taxi episodes — funny how that works — and gave us this back-and-forth between Jim, Latka, and Alex:

Jim: Death to the revolutionary rebels!

Latka: But I am fighting for the revolutionary rebels.

Jim: Death to the imperialist stooges!

Latka: But they were thrown out long ago.

Jim: Death to the puppet regime!

Latka: But there is no puppet regime.

Jim: Who the hell are we fighting?

Latka: The tyrannical despot.

Jim: Well, the tyrannical despot will soon know the name Jim…umm…

Alex: Ignatowski!

Jim: Right! Already it’s spreading!

“Elaine’s Secret Admirer”

Available on Hulu | Available on CBS All Access

After she breaks up with some guy the show’s never previously introduced, Elaine begins receiving anonymous love poetry. She thinks it’s garage idiot prettyboy Don Reavy — who can only say different variations of the word “yeah” — but Alex finds out the truth: it’s Jim. It’s never quite established why he’s sending the poetry; he doesn’t appear to expect anything, like a date, in return, but his response to Alex’s questioning — that he writes and mails poetry to every living thing — doesn’t sound quite right either.

After Elaine finds out it’s Jim and not Don, who she’s about to embark on a weekend to Vermont with, she sarcastically thanks Jim for getting it through her “thick skull that there aren’t gonna be any castles” in her life, a reference to one of his poems. That night, apparently (?) Elaine comes home to find Jim in her apartment in a person-sized castle made of what looks like sheet metal.

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If you think about it for more than one second, it’s very creepy and completely inappropriate what Jim does here — but to read it on the show’s terms, it’s just another quirky act from their quirky junkie. Jim here, though, seems to expect something from Elaine in return for the castle. When she finds out that the castle is, in fact, made of material taken directly from his van, he asks if he can crash at her place for a year — maybe a joke, maybe not? All she can say is “Oh, Jim.” Jim sadly walks out of her apartment and gets into his roofless van. And now Elaine is stuck with this van-castle in her living room. Nobody wins.

The post Taxi: Latka’s Revolting/Elaine’s Secret Admirer appeared first on Bitter Empire.