What happens when two people who aren’t alike switch places for the day and pretend to be each other? The possibilities are endless. The Freaky Friday-style switcheroo is a reliable staple in TV and movies because the characters involved — usually two who don’t fully understand each other — gain a new perspective (think: punk princess Lindsay Lohan and career-oriented, straight-laced mom Jamie Lee Curtis). Broad City’s attempt at a deliberate, no-magic-involved swapping of souls in last night’s episode took place between Abbi and Ilana. This version of trading places sticks to the script in terms of their completely opposite personalities, but deviates from it in that Abbi and Ilana understand each other better than anyone else. Also, the switch isn’t totally mutual — we ended up with two Ilanas on last nights’ episode.
Ilana runs into a grave artisanal problem when she must find someone to cover her shift at the fresh produce co-op while she goes to the doctor. Since she hasn’t fulfilled any of her membership hours and it’s the last day of the “moon cycle” to do so, Abbi steps in so Ilana can keep her membership and continue to give sensual rubdowns to the fresh produce as she peruses the diverse selections. The idea is that the two will switch personalities for the day, but the switch serves only Ilana, which is how we basically end up with two of them. Although the episode partly follows Ilana’s trip to the doctor and a liberating epiphany about the wonders of open relationships, the majority of the episode’s humor stems from Abbi’s impersonation of Ilana’s personality.
The stark difference between Ilana and Abbi is primarily their general levels of comfort: Abbi is anxious and easily flustered, while Ilana generally doesn’t give a shit and/or is too stoned to consider how she may affect other people. For that reason, when Abbi steps into Ilana’s shoes to salvage the co-op membership, Ilana’s eccentricities are highlighted by Abbi’s self-aware, uneasy emulation of her behaviors. Wearing Ilana’s mesh crop top that has “NYC” spelled out in green bubble letters, Abbi first brings attention to Ilana’s unapologetic, scanty fashion sense that we’ve accepted as her own. As Abbi — or “Ilana” — finds different ways to help out around the co-op, she has to constantly remind herself that she is Ilana as she finds herself slipping into her meeker Abbi ways that are more suitable for public places. She recharges her Ilana spirit by making vulgar comments about the shapes of the vegetables, twerking against the wall, and talking to another co-op member about how porn is really everywhere when you think about it. She adopts Ilana’s slapstick-oriented comedic approach, which gives Ilana’s character that potent sense of reckless abandon that viewers love. The impersonation is accurate yet not at all — anyone can try to act like Ilana, but no one can be her, not even her best friend.