South Park Review: “Let Go, Let Gov” (Season 17, Episode 1)

south park s17e01

What better way to start out the 17th – yes, seventeenth – season of South Park than with a brand new introduction video! It’s mostly the same with different animation, but the clip does open with Kenny’s gravestone. Might this mean we will have a season 17 without him?

The episode opens with Kyle, raging about the nonsensical use of speaker phone mode in public, a conversation method popularly used by Cartman. This bus stop opening frames the central theme of this season premiere: Americans are enraged by the NSA, and yet they seemingly publish their every thought and action into the public “cloud.”

An all new tech-invention hits the social media scene courtesy of Alec Baldwin, whose homophobic thumbs have been betraying him with hateful tweets. The new device, called “Shitter,” broadcasts your every thought to the Internet and your followers. Unfortunately, the only people on Shitter are Baldwin and Cartman. While I didn’t find the “Alec Baldwin’s thoughts jokes” to be too funny, a shot of him chopping off his own thumbs in the Shitter infomercial was my biggest laugh-out-loud moment in the episode.

Butters, the reigning champ of “cutest character on South Park,” learns about the government’s exploits through Cartman’s ramblings, but instead of fearing the government, sweet, innocent Butters turns to the force of the government as a God. He prays to the government, thanking it for watching over him and his friends, even Eric. He even asks the government for a puppy for Christmas, if it isn’t too much trouble.

Cartman, who has grown increasingly angry at the government’s knowledge of his personal life (and specifically for their mystical Amazon recommendations) decides to infiltrate the NSA. He makes his way in seamlessly, but quickly finds that the NSA is an unproductive, boring place.

butters south park season 17 let go let gov

Turns out, the NSA’s central computer has designated Eric Cartman’s status as “fat and unimportant.” An enraged, undercover Cartman insists that the central computer is wrong, and when he is led to the computer itself, we learn the truth. The central computer of the NSA is actually a tortured Santa Claus, hung up in an elaborate web of robot arms, determining who is naughty and who is nice.

Meanwhile, Butters has made a confessional-style trip to the DMV, to apologize to the government and atone for his Jennifer Lawrence-related sins. He teams up with a few Jehovah’s Witnesses, converting them to his government religion to spread the word, and he even begins to establish a following, leading up to an adorable sequence of Butters as some sort of preacher holding a tiny service at the DMV.

This sets up a world of potential DMV jokes, notably my favorite when a DMV manager responds to the faith services, loudly expressing, “This is the DMV. There will be no joy here.” There will be no allowance of cell phones, or anything else that passes the time joyously. In classic South Park fashion, when the DMV members themselves begin to express their sins, the entire DMV gets shut down because of their admittance of rampant relations with young boys.

Cartman’s story ends after he leaves the NSA, and he cries to his mommy about how no one cares. He was a whistleblower, he infiltrated the NSA, and no one even cared. No one even cares about the torture of Santa Claus. “I know that the NSA’s torturing Santa, sweetie, but they’re keeping us safe,” she replies. A distraught Cartman is only able to find solace in Butters’ new pseudo-religion, in which Cartman is able to accept the government into his heart.

I thought that this episode of South Park was solid overall. While it doesn’t stand out as one of the bests, it hits all of the criteria for a South Park well-done. Any episode where Butters is cute is an episode of which I approve.

What do you think? Let us know your thoughts on the episode and on the upcoming season in the comments!