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Portlandia Recap! Episode Three: "Cool Wedding" (Plus St. Vincent Covering Pearl Jam)

Portlandia-mania hit New York City this past weekend like a torrential hipster hurricane, with two live shows (at Williamsburg Hall of Music and Bowery Ballroom), and a panel discussion with Fred and Carrie at Midtown's Paley Center on Saturday afternoon. If you weren't at the Bowery show, and haven't caught the video of St. Vincent (who was an unannounced surprise guest) covering Pearl Jam's "Black," it's worth checking out.

Watching Annie Clark give her all to that song brings to mind a mid-'90s legend, where Courtney Love, while touring with Lollapalooza, bet Stephen Malkmus that she could finish the Times Sunday crossword before he could, and the loser would have to "cover a Pearl Jam song without irony." Malkmus won the bet, but no Pearl Jam cover was ever performed. It seemed like an irony-free Pearl Jam cover was an impossible task, but St. Vincent proves it can be pulled off!

But I digress. The dream of the '90s is still alive in Portland, and in the midst of all this hullabaloo, a new Portlandia episode aired on Friday night! "Cool Wedding," was not as sharp as last Friday's "One Moore Episode" (the claws really came out last week, and the satire shredded) but Fred and Carrie still delivered the goods. The cold-open sketch, which played on the cult of Apple computers, nailed how dependent iPhone users are on their smartphones, to the point of absurdity.

The title sketch/runner focused on the "cool wedding" between Spyke and Irys, Portlandia's recurring bike-messenger punks. In the first segment of the runner, Spyke and Irys meet with their wedding planner, and their description of what they want their wedding to be was one of the highlights of the episode. "There's a 60 percent divorce rate. We want that at the forefront of peoples' minds," Irys tells their wedding planner. "But we want it to be fun," Spyke adds.

I'll be honest: Sometimes I peek at other Portlandia recaps if they go up before mine, and I was surprised that the "You go first!" sketch was roundly hated in the recap community. To me, this sketch was the episode's peak and embodied everything that Fred and Carrie succeed at comically. The gist of the sketch was that Fred and Carrie are in separate cars and keep insisting that the other go first at an intersection. When neither one of them will go, the sketch heightens to the point of insanity. The reason I love this bit so much is that the rapid-fire escalation of the joke, visual gags and clever word play reveal Fred and Carrie to be the direct descendants of Abbott and Costello.

"Cool Wedding" had two prominent guest stars, but neither really added much to their respective sketches. 30 Rock's Jack McBrayer played a puka-shell wearing dude who forgets his reusable bag at a grocery store, to the shock and horror of Fred and Carrie. And Academy Award-nominated actress Shohreh Aghdashloo played an author named Nelofar Jamshidi (I'm assuming that's an anagram?) who promotes her book, A Stone's Throw Away From Freedom, at the Women and Women First Bookstore.

The episode tied up neatly with a call-back to Spyke and Irys, who at this point in the episode have broken up and decide to divide their friends in a kickball-style draft. As they pick their friends one at a time from bleachers in a high school gymnasium, it was fun to pick out familiar faces (Rebecca Cole of Wild Flag and director Lance Bangs -- who's also Corin Tucker of Sleater-Kinney's husband -- made cameos). It was one of the frequent moments in Portlandia when you feel like you're watching a bunch of friends putting on a silly play for their own amusement.  

Download "Cool Weddding" on iTunes here!

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