Thursday, November 2, 2017

REVIEW: 'Superstore' - Amy and Jonah Try to Bring Health Care to Cloud 9 in 'Health Fund'

NBC's Superstore - Episode 3.06 "Health Fund"

As Mateo turns to stranger and stranger home remedies for an ear infection, Amy and Jonah decide to offer an alternative to Cloud 9's terrible health insurance plan. Glenn enlists Dina to help him get medical attention for his own embarrassing condition.

Superstore has proven to be very successful in the past when it has shifted its focus to more topical issues. It has handled a number of complicated issues with respect and humor. And now, "Health Fund" pivots to the serious and complex issue of health care in this country. It's not surprising in the slightest that the employee health care plan at Cloud 9 is absolutely horrible. It would be completely in line with everything the show has said about the corporation that runs this company. They are cheap and don't really care about their employees. It's a hassle just to get anyone from corporate to take anything all that seriously. Even though Jeff has emerged as the face of corporate from time to time, he hasn't been helpful in solving any of the workplace problems that have come up over the past year. Instead, it's frequently up to the employees to band together and figure out a way to address these issues. Jonah and Amy are the noble ones who take up the cause this week. Mateo has an ear infection. Everyone wants to do something to help him get proper medical treatment. The show doesn't even delve into Mateo's illegal status in this story. It's just important that Mateo is sick and doesn't have the proper health care to get better. Instead, he is trying home remedies and behind-the-counter deals with the sketchy pharmacist. And all the employees can think to do is put out a jar asking for donations after the disease has happened. Jonah wants to do something to address the situation before it happens. Again, it's noble but it's not clear if any good actually comes from that.

Basically all that this episode really says about this issue is that health care is complicated. It's easy to say that everyone should be covered while paying the least amount of money as possible. But the practical realities of it are so much more difficult. Jonah believes he's doing good by creating this health fund for the store. It's a way to ensure that the co-workers are looking out for each other and have a viable option for health coverage. It could improve their lives. They could care for each other in a way that corporate doesn't. They understand the importance of this. But it's never abundantly clear if the show is just mocking the complexities of this issue in the real world without presenting any alternative that would be better. It's definitely calling attention to the fact that the issue is more complex than anyone wants to admit. It pokes fun at legislators who are trying to decide how people should be classed when it comes to health care and how that influences how much they pay and the treatment they get as a result. It quickly spirals out of control for Jonah and Amy. It starts simply with everyone giving twenty bucks and expecting coverage when they need it. But that only forms a line of employees needing things immediately. This episode highlights the many ways health care will improve their lives while ensuring that it does nothing but make everyone angry at Jonah and Amy for getting their hopes up in the first place.

Once again, all of this works because of the fantastic reaction Sandra has to it. She remains the best character in this show because she's so often on the sidelines but can be an important part of any major story. It's a joke that she suffers from so many different ailments. She's a punching bag amongst the employees. But this is where she draws the line. She wants coverage so that she can actually manage all of these inflictions. She challenges Jonah and Amy's decision when they want to split the employees into various groups that will receive more complicated and confusing coverage. It's all very arbitrary and unfair from her perspective. It sets everything up for the twisted jokes that Marcus' leg is extremely infected while Elias falls into a vending machine after jumping up on a table. Again, it highlights the trivial way the people in charge are trying to handle the situation. It makes just as much sense to put people in various groups depending on if they can jump on a table as it is for one person to decide they need more or less health coverage. But again, it just feels like the show is exposing these flaws in the system without presenting anything better. It still sets things up wonderfully for that moment when Tate glues his fingers to Elias' forehead in an attempt to treat his wounds though.

It's all silly and meant to turn the staff against Jonah and Amy. That's an attitude that they've shared before. Amy was desperate to be included in the health fund. She didn't take it seriously in the early going at all. It was born out of a simple conversation she and Jonah were having. She just wanted a convincing charity name so that they could fundraise for Mateo. Jonah wanted to do more. That action led to this story. She wanted to be included in the appreciation for this "smart" idea. Jonah includes her at the precise time where things are quickly spiraling out of control for him. That's a funny reveal that makes sense. It drags Amy down too. She's the one who has to scramble alongside Jonah as they try to fix it. In the end, they can't. So, they have to hide out in the new storm shelter. The best they can do is hide out together and enjoy some beers. It's a nice moment with no romantic subtext whatsoever. It's fun and relaxing. And then, Kelly shows up and brings the romance to the forefront of the story. She literally sits down between them. As such, the show is making it painfully clear that she is meant to come between Jonah and Amy this season. It being so forced doesn't make it feel genuine or natural though. It makes it seem like this is all that Kelly is good for this season. She's a new addition stirring up uncertainty between Jonah and Amy. They already decided it wasn't a good idea to date. But the show is making sure that the audience forever remains aware that it's always a distant possibility - even in the stories that are trying to frame them as friends.

All of this talk about health care forces some characters to think about their own health and whether or not they should get certain things checked out. That's the basis for the subplot with Glenn and Dina. Dina mentions that she had a suspicious mole removed that turned out to be cancerous. It was caught early and she's perfectly fine. She was proactive about the situation. She's very blunt and detailed about it as well. Meanwhile, Glenn's cheery optimism doesn't mesh well with the idea that someone's health could be compromised in a serious way and corporate doesn't ultimately care. He's the only one actually trying to use the company health care program to book an appointment with a doctor. He can't get an appointment for six months. That's too long for him to be terrified by the uncertainty of whether or not his mole is dangerous. It's a story that becomes comedic because the mole is on Glenn's penis and Dina needs to look at it in a way that makes Glenn comfortable. It's awkward and a little cringe-worthy. But it's effective in the end because Dina gets a picture she could use to blackmail Glenn if she wanted to. Plus, it forces Glenn to think about having a biological child with his wife. They already have over a dozen children. But now, he's becoming obsessed with this new idea. And once Glenn becomes obsessed with something, it doesn't leave his mind easily. Usually, he commits to it fully moving forward.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Health Fund" was written by Jackie Clarke and directed by Victor Nelli Jr.
  • The punchline to all of this is that Mateo is completely inconsequential to the entire plot. He's just off doing his own thing. His co-workers are helping raise money for him. But he takes their generosity to pamper himself. He doesn't want to go to a doctor to get his ear infection looked at. Instead, he just wants to buy a luxury item he's been looking at for awhile now. That's a smart and effective end to this story.
  • Everyone is seemingly going to Tate for medical advice even though he's absolutely the worst pharmacist Cloud 9 could afford. Mateo goes to him for help with his infection and Tate reveals he has his own personal collection of various drugs. Meanwhile, Glenn goes to him for help with his mole but instead doesn't get checked out at all.
  • It's also very funny that Glenn is uncomfortable talking about this medical issue with the company robocall system because it is voiced by a woman. He wants to know if there is a male version. It's important that he's sensitive like that while dealing with this personal problem. But it also highlights how he continues to be very inappropriate in this workplace as well.
  • Garrett is suppose to have an employee review throughout this episode. But every time he goes to Glenn's office, he walks in on something very embarrassing and traumatizing. Glenn breaks his computer because of that. Meanwhile, Garrett sees the weird setup that Glenn and Dina have going on as well - with a full view of Glenn's penis.
  • So, Jonah and Amy basically sent up a system where the employees choose which programs they want to buy into. It's a system where different groups get different benefits. They have crazy names and are difficult to keep track of. It's easy for the whole system to fall apart though. That's what ultimately happens. It's not surprising. It just means this will probably never be mentioned again either.