South Park Review: “Cock Magic”

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For years now, South Park has been leaning on social commentary first, jokes second. With last night’s completely self-contained, off-the-wall, and downright funny episode they flipped the switch back to a simpler time in the show’s existence. The entire 18th season in general so far has been an effort to tone down the insanity and get back to the true personality of South Park and last night’s episode epitomized that endeavor.

Primarily, the episode revolved around a single phrase: cock magic. Whether it was an illegal cockfighting ring that pitted Magic: The Gathering-playing Roosters against each other, or Randy Marsh performing magic tricks with his… um… talents, almost every joke revolved around the double entendre of using the word “cock” to mean a variety of things.

On the Magic: The Gathering side of things, the story followed Cartman and the usual gang as they became roped into an illegal underground Magic: The Gathering “fighting” ring where unwilling roosters were forced to be locked in a cage only to be released and dual other “Planeswalker Poultry.”

As someone who is enough of a Magic player to understand what phrases sound weird and what don’t, it was interesting to hear the show struggle to try and keep it accurate, but accessible to non-players. They made some obvious compromises, such as calling lands “mana cards” and instants “instant speed cards.” Of course this isn’t anything major, but it would have been a nice touch to just go all-in on making the game as true-to-life as possible compared to the physical card game that has been around for over twenty years.

The board looked very much like a real Magic game as well.

The board looked very much like a real Magic game as well.

I’m not sure how funny it all was be to anyone completely oblivious to Magic, but it worked for me and a lot of the sight and word gags were really on-point and hit well.

The boys and their Magic-playing rooster (who they named “McNuggets”) eventually make their way to “the big leagues” which is fighting in the basement of a Panda Express. Throughout their journey to cock Magic stardom, there is always an over-enthusiastic announcer declaring all their moves. From what I can tell, most of what was going on in the games was accurate (albeit with made up card names), and he was doing a good job mimicking the excitement that real Magic: The Gathering announcers exude when a big play happens.

It feels like beating a dead horse at this point, but once again the brightest point of the episode was Randy Marsh. Misunderstanding what the boys meant when they said they were involved in “Cock Magic,” Randy decided to take up his old talent of performing magic tricks with his manhood. Every time he began one of his acts, a hilariously cliched drum and symbol tune would start to play as he performed extremely lame magic tricks with the added benefit of his own little personal touch. Perhaps the best Randy scene was when he took his act to a child’s birthday party that ended up involving a lot of blood, a missing appendage, and milk.

Throughout the episode the cops are continually trying to stop the cock Magic ring, which lead them to accidentally chase down Randy and his own version of the phrase that involves less magic cards and more man-parts. Not much was done with side plot, other than they ended up breaking up the illegal rooster Magic ring in the end, but it didn’t get in the way at least.

There was also some weird side-theme of women’s sports not getting enough attention while arguably pointless male sports (such as Magic) get a ton of attention just because they’re “manly.” It’s continually referenced throughout that no one is attending the girl’s volleyball games at school – if there is any underlying commentary with this episode is it most likely that, but it wasn’t very intrusive at all.

When Stan learned that Wendy is a volleyball player, he had to attend a game and it had one of my favorite, subtle jokes in the episode. The seats in the school’s gym were basically empty and you could hear the squeak of every shoe and every slap of the volleyballs as if they were echoing throughout it. It was such a simple audio gag, but it worked really well after being set up for the whole episode how low the attendance was.

Even while at the game, all Stan was doing was calling Cartman and Kyle and asking about the big Magic fight.

Even while at the game, all Stan was doing was calling Cartman and Kyle and asking about the big Magic fight.

Once the underground Magic ring was broken up, the episode fished with McNuggets playing against the girl’s volleyball team because, why wouldn’t it? It’s just a simple half-minute gag with a fantastic joke at the end. I almost don’t want to ruin it because the delivery is so good and it comes out of nowhere – it left me laughing for a good minute or two after the episode was over.

Overall, this is one of the better episodes in an already above-average season of South Park. If you have long given up on the show after years of preachy, heavy-handed messages, this was the perfect episode to jump back in with. It was very reminiscent of late ’90s/early ’00s South Park in that the jokes were mostly simple (that’s not a bad thing), funny, varied, immature, and constant. To put it simply, this episode was just plain refreshing.

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