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SOUTH PARK Recap, “Gluten Free Ebola”

A few days ago a news item slipped through the cracks, it seems, revealing that scientists had discovered that gluten-sensitivity is, well, bullshit. The allergy is legitimate, but the Mr. Mackey-types, complaining that all bad vibes are due to that pesky gluten, is just a fad. The whole gluten thing, to me, feels much like the treatment of electrolytes in Idiocracy. No one really knows what it does or what it is; it’s just that thing that people say things about. I’m just as annoyed by the whole gluten-sensitivity thing as the next guy, or girl, or co-creator of a hit Comedy Central series. So I was excited when I saw the title in the promotional materials released by Comedy Central this week. So much happened in this episode, so let’s get into it.

The opening moments of this episode were interesting. They carried over where last week’s episode left off with the boys returning to “schooooo”, as Cartman said. Here’s what we learned:

–        Stan and Wendy broke up. Stan left her because he wanted to pour his focus into his start-up. In case you forgot, it was called Furry Balls Plopped Menacingly On The Table. Wendy then revealed that she knows Stan told Clyde he left her because he’d be “dripping in bitches”.

–        Also, Butters is gone. Now, as any good South Park fan knows, Butters has gone missing before. So, for my part, I’m writing a whole dark, side-saga in my head. A side-plot, running in the background, where Butters’ parents are, yet again, involved in murder, gay bathhouses, and psychotic meltdowns. Hey, it’s happened before. But this time, Butters left of his own volition, burning down the gymnasium and spray-painting, “I’m out! Peace!” and “So long sukkas!” I’m dying to know what happened. And I feel that we’re going to find out next week.

–        Mr. Mackey is now gluten-free.

One of the most interesting aspects of the beginning of the episode is that it picked up immediately where it left off last week. South Park has done ‘to be continued’ and trilogies and tetralogies before. But this felt more like a serialized approach. Things weren’t reset from the preceding episode. While South Park has referenced past adventures and episodes, this episode was dealing, in some part, with the consequences of the boys’ actions. I appreciated that approach. I wonder if the whole, ten episode, season will continue in this fashion. The seeds they planted with Butters’ meltdown surely imply this is the case.

The first half of the episode dealt with the growing gluten-free fad. For the most part, the set-ups were solid. Mr. Mackey takes every chance he can to mention his new lifestyle and tie it to any and everything people say. Mr. Garrison voices the opposing side of this, while Principal Victoria is the clueless tagalong, calling into radio stations to discuss gluten-free options at the boys’ party. It’s all there, set up like a glorious, gluten-free buffet table, and we’re just waiting for the classic, harsh, scathing South Park punchline that destroys our perceptions and drives us to rethink the world, and idiots, around us. Honestly, while there were some more solid jokes thrown in, the episode didn’t finish with a strong statement or reveal. They never flipped the idea. They never dissected it, flayed it, and opened it up for us to examine it. The set-ups just set up more set-ups, really. Which is okay, I suppose. I loved the jokes about the plate simulations and the food pyramid. And I always appreciate when the adults in South Park lose their minds. But nothing really sliced and diced like a top-notch South Park episode should. It was just above average in that department.

As far as Papa John’s goes, maybe I missed something. The last topical Papa John’s thing was when the actual Papa was being a dick about the Affordable Healthcare Act. Is something going on with them right now? I just didn’t see the significance of that. Let me know if you have an idea about that.

I certainly enjoyed the fact that gluten can make your dick fly off. It’s the sort of silliness that exposes the absurdity in the target. In fads like gluten-free, the adherents are so frustrating in their obtuseness, they’re essentially acting as though it could make your dick fly off. But to be fair, be sure to consume antioxidants, because free radicals can make your nipples explode…or something. But wait, hey! Hey now! What does gluten do to women? They ain’t got no dick with which flying off is a possibility! I want answers.

It might sound like I didn’t like this episode. That’s not true. In fact, I enjoyed it more than last week’s. Maybe I’m just getting back into the swing of things here, with the whole think with my brain and making my hands write words. It was a funny, solid episode. I just wish the last minute or so was intellectually shocking.

Let me know how wrong I am in the comments section!


–        Lorde? Why not take the chance to go after U2? They seem the band du jour in terms of topical humor at least. Although, Randy as Lorde was fantastic.

–        “We’re the USDA, without us people would be eating dirt…and…chairs.”

–        “Shutup! Beer’s bad for you?!?”

–        “I’m okay, wanna see my dick?”

–        I love Randy Marsh.

–        I’m a fan of Scott Malkinson. I don’t want to see more of him necessarily. I just like when he pops up.

–        Ebola was in the title. Ebola is in the news. People are freaking their shit out about the one dude who has Ebola in Texas. So I guess the panic is there in the episode. But that’s all I really noticed as far as Ebola. That and the flipped food pyramid being a vaccine for gluten-sensitivity.

–        The Stan and Randy moment at the Papa John’s reminded me of the Red Dawn “Avenge me!” scene. Which would mark the second time they’ve referenced that film. The scene wasn’t an exact reenactment. But it had a similar feel.

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The Author

Michael O'Brien

Michael O'Brien

Michael graduated with a degree in Creative Writing with a minor in Film Studies from Western Kentucky University in 2009. He currently lives with his wife, two cats (and Netflix account) in NYC. He has published short stories on and He has published poems in The Poetry Gymnasium by Dr. Tom Hunley and in The Roundtable.