And so we come to the end. Of Broad City’s third season, that is. But not yet, in this last episode called “Jews on a Plane,” to the end of Abbi and Ilana’s incessant ability not just to support what they believe in (yes, dammit, tampons should be free! And yes, dammit, the government probably does hate women—just look at the current state of reproductive freedoms!), but to amplify the absurdity of what they don’t.
That is: Religion. En route to Israel for their heritage trip, Abbi (Abbi-le, as Jared the “Birthmark” trip leader calls her), goes to the front of the plane to introduce herself along with her fellow Birthmark participants. Rachel is an event planner from Montana looking to make its Jewish population bigger. Mark’s a gay man who runs a nail art business outside of Boston and wants to marry a nice Jewish girl so he can get his trust-fund. It’s “J-Fuck,” Ilana observes in horror.
Then Abbi, still smarting that her Drew Barrymore-endorsed suitcase was relegated to the hold, steps up and admits, “I’m a little bit lost and, you know, I’m looking for a spiritual experience on this trip.”
Visibly moved, Ilana goes next. “I’m Ilana and right now I’m just looking to sit next to Abbi, you know, hang, get new jokes together. Also, I’ve never been out of the country and also, also I’m looking to get into the mohel chai club.”
After which, Ilana explains to Abbi what she means. “You know, how mohels suck baby dick.” Like Jenny from the Block, Abbi from the Main Line hasn’t a clue what a mohel even is. “Honestly, are you Jewish?” Ilana asks in consternation. “You’re not supposed to be on this trip if you’re not,” she goes on. “A mohel is the Jewish dude who performs the circumcisions, you know like a bris, so they don’t do it in the hospital. So these rabbis can do whatever they want, so they take the detached baby foreskin and they roll it around in their mouths with wine and they, they suck the baby dick itself to stop the bleeding.”
If that offends you, you won’t want to know her joke about Jews being horny (‘cause of their supposed horns, see, as Ilana illustrates with two fingers, rhino style on her head). Or the one that explains why the pilot’s area is called a cockpit. This episode is long on the off-color.
Abbi gags at the bris description. And you, reader and watcher, having seen this episode, realize for the umpteenth time how much of the rituals and pageantry of religion, all religions, is absurd. Of course, this pronouncement comes a day before Judaism’s biggest pageant of all. I speak of Passover, our yearly reenactment of the Exodus story—a tale filled with vermin, boils, slashes of blood to ward off the angel of death—when we’re asked to see ourselves as slaves in Egypt, shackled by oppressive overlords, yearning … and then achieving! … liberation.
People of absolute faith, forgive me. There’s lots about religion to love, too. My mama didn’t raise a complete heretic.
Anyways, Abbi likens it all to “the sacrament. It’s a wafer and when you take it in your mouth, you let go of your sins. It’s actually a beautiful ceremony.” Then, she gets her period. It’s the first day so kind of a gusher (and that’s a mild comparison to how Abbi and Ilana describe it). Don’t look askance, haters. Complying with taboos against talking about bodies and how they function is why we have misogyny in the first place. Point is, Abbi needs a tampon. Ilana tries to fashion a home-made one using pita bread for absorbency, a hair elastic, and other found materials, while Abbi approaches fellow passengers to see if they have any spares.
“Oh my goodness no. I’m flattered you asked,” responds one roughly 55-year-old, “even though many women my age do experience spotting.”
“Oh, I totally forgot about menopause,” Abbi says, to which the woman observes, “Menopause isn’t represented in mainstream media,” and when she looks again, Abbi’s gone. Point deftly taken. Brilliance, right there.
Meantime, Ilana challenges Jared’s pushiness on making matches (he does it for the ca$hmoney, yo), and then they go at it, mohel chai club style, in the john. “Don’t tell Aviv,” she quips, in top Nielsen “don’t call me Shirley” fashion. The allusions are fast and furious, and if you reference a Sam Jackson action movie without action of all kinds it’s a shameful venture indeed. So, in short order, the ladies forge a plan to secure tampons they see beckoning in first class. “Shabbat shalom, motherfuckers,” Ilana says at go time with bad-ass conviction.
With a portentous Christmas carol playing, they’re thwarted in slo-mo by the flight attendants (the incomparable Tracee Ellis Ross and Tymberlee Hill) who misunderstand when they overhear Abbi say, “any second there is gonna be an explosion and there’s gonna be blood, like everywhere” in reference to her menstrual status. Soon they’re being interrogated by Israeli security forces before being sent back to New York City.
All is not lost, though. On the way, Ilana realizes what she wants to do with her life (you think Imma spoil everything?), and observes, “Israelis really love their gun. Guns are so gross. I’m really relieved we’re going back home.”
An Amen—can I get one?
Sara Ivry is the host of Vox Tablet, Tablet Magazine’s weekly podcast. Follow her on Twitter@saraivry.