South Park Season 18, Episode 7 recap & review
As this contains a recap, spoilers follow.
This week, Comedy Central’s longest-running show took on virtual reality and the Oculus Rift. While not really connecting to the other episodes this season (as this has been a seasonal theme, even if a character simply refers to Lorde) or generating a lot of laughs, “Grounded Vindaloop” still comes out as the one of the cleverer “South Park” episodes to date. While we didn’t get any Randy Marsh this week, the solid formula of Cartman and Butters shared several scenes which spilled into the involvement of Stan, Kyle, and Kenny.
The episode opens on a hilarious scene with Butters wandering the halls of South Park Elementary wearing a makeshift Oculus-lookalike made from noise-cancelling earmuffs and protective goggles. He believes he’s in a virtual reality simulation. Butters shouts what he sees and the transmission somehow makes it back to Cartman, who’s been kind enough to let his naïve friend take a spin in his Oculus Rift. Obviously, Cartman trolled Butters, who trusts Eric way too much to ever question him.
Of course, Cartman’s other friends once again ask their tubby tagalong to knock it off and leave innocent Butters to be, but Cartman’s torturous temperament would never allow that. As these situations always go, Cartman flies too close to the sun and gets tangled up in his own prank which sucks in every South Park citizens like a black hole, and calling Steve the concerned call service operator from customer service in India only makes matters worse for anyone that calls him. Steve informs the core four that the virtual reality helmets are undergoing a “total recall,” to which Kyle responds with the necessary “F*** you” at the rather meta reference.
Butters then heads way off grid while in the middle of a prank VR session. Instead of showing each stage of events, it was far funnier to hear Butters relay everything back to Cartman over the microphone. Butters life turns into Grand Theft Auto in a matter of minutes—biting social commentary on how video games affect young children. The youngest Stotch roshambos his father, steals the car keys, crashes the car in a sketch part of town, robs a prostitute, then finally gets stabbed by the prostitute in an act of retaliation.
Butters wakes up in a hospital where the physician reminds him that he’s not in virtual reality and to relay that Butters’ father called to say his son is more grounded than he can “possibly imagine.” Cartman appears as Morpheus from The Matrix and sneaks around the room to further his illusion with Butters. At this point, the episode becomes an obvious, yet welcome blend of “The Death of Eric Cartman” and “Insheeption”—two of “South Park’s” most celebrated broadcasts.
The episode winds to an unexpected, yet fitting conclusion after the boys take turns figuring out just which one of them is in the simulation. It could be any of them, but which one? Did Steve provide excellent service? Is Butters really grounded, or was it in VR? “Grounded Vindaloop” is sure to find itself in a “Best of Cartman & Butters” collection sometime soon on Hulu.