Tough decisions put the men in the corner.
One of the great pleasures of Men of a Certain Age is trying to figure out how its three plotlines are going to unite thematically. Some weeks require more work than others to parse out where the show’s taking Owen (Andre Braugher), Terry (Scott Bakula), and Joe (Ray Romano), but the show’s title usually provides a pretty helpful hint, even if it ends up being interpreted in three different ways. In “Can’t Let that Slide,” the men are faced with three incidents that they could choose to wave benignly at as they pass by. One does end up letting it slide, but it’s not because he’s chicken.
Joe’s backslide into the world of gambling continues this week, as we see him taking bigger and bigger bets on Manfro (Jon Manfrellotti)’s behalf. He’s doing steady business with the kindly restaurant owner we met back at the beginning of season 2.5, but things get hairy when the guy points Joe to a new wagerer.
Things are on the up-and-up at Thoreau Chevrolet, but Owen notices that there’s a striking disconnect between the in-person comment cards (“Your salesmen are the bomb!”) and the reviews they’re getting online (“I had to take a shower to get the oily salesman stench off”). He decides to play Big Brother and install hidden cameras in the dealership’s cars so he can see how the salesmen are behaving—badly—during test drives. What he sees is predictably madcap but no less funny for it: Lawrence (Matt Price) refers to the light in a portly customer’s car as a “French-fry finder.” Price’s performance continues to be one of Men of a Certain Age’s hidden assets, and it’s nice to see when a show knows that its quirky supporting characters work best at the margins. We’re not apt to see the show pull a Family Guy and make a Lawrence-only episode.
Things seem to be going great between Terry and Erin (Melinda McGraw), though Erin’s a bit overwhelmed by Terry’s sudden devotion: he wakes up before she does (earlier-than-teacher hours, mind you), takes out the dog, bakes scones and recommends reheating options, etc. This “new” Terry is the opposite of the non-committal “let’s not define things” Terry that we’ve seen up until now. Again, Terry’s plotline shows us the cringe-inducingly real habit many of us have of trying as hard as we can to make something work. Though it seems like getting the girl (or guy) is the hardest part, sometimes we feel like the real battle is keeping the person. Desperation is stinky cologne, though. Erin seems, by turns, flattered, surprised, and totally put-off by Terry’s new persona. This is, of course, the self-fulfilling prophecy that many of us get into in this situation: we want the person so bad that we end up driving them away.
Joe’s new client places a $5,000 bet on a Duke-Kansas game but is all excuses when Joe comes to collect after Kansas blows it. “I don’t get paid until next week,” “I just moved into a new place”: whatever the reason, the guy clearly doesn’t have the cash. When Joe loses $1,200 on a missed candy shipment, he pays a visit to the guy’s electronics store after hours to collect. Backed into a corner, the guy flop-sweats his way through the standard gambling addict’s story: his wife left him and took the kids, he’s living in a crappy apartment because he’s so far in the hole. Joe sees himself in the guy and walks away.
But while Joe lets the guy slide—for his own sake more than the wagerer’s—Owen’s predicament is thornier. In addition to his salesmen pimping their musical side projects and eating powdered donuts, he catches Bruce (Albert Hall), his father’s (Richard Gant) right-hand man for thirty years of selling off Thoreau’s high-mileage cars and taking a kickback for shutting out other possible vendors. Owen worries briefly that he won’t be able to fire his dad’s old friend, but father and son end up giving the guy his papers together. Hall’s and Gant’s performances in this abbreviated scene are nothing short of spectacular. Hall, covered in the same flop-sweat as Joe’s would-be client, stammers that he’ll pay the money back and that he was just trying to get a little extra “fee.” Owen Jr. accepts his excuses—he’s out the door, anyway—but his father’s wrath is mighty. “Get the hell out of here!” he bellows over Bruce’s protests. Gant most surely deserves an Emmy for his performance in this episode, and series co-creator Mike Royce directs him finely, wringing all the pathos he can out of a tragic situation. It’s Royce’s directorial debut, but you wouldn’t know it from the episode. He seems like an old hand.
Terry’s control-freak tendencies backfire on him when he tries to book a romantic dinner for him and Erin but ends up stuck in traffic. Erin’s need to pee becomes more and more desperate until she screams that she doesn’t care about their reservation and demands that Terry take her home. He proceeds to break the key off in the lock, and Erin pees her pants.
After she gets a chance to calm down – and find a new pair of pants – she tells Terry that she knows why he’s acting the way he is. “I know I left, and I’d do anything to not do that, but I’m here now.” She just wants to take things slow, like they were before the break. But Terry, in a twist that’s surprising but not unbelievable, tells her that he’s taken things slow for 50 years, and it’s gotten him nowhere. “Let’s move in together,” he says. I worried briefly from the deer-in-the-headlights look in her eyes, that Erin was going to say “no.” She doesn’t, and the episode gets its trademark “woo-hoo” moment.
So while it was actually Joe who gave the episode its name—he says the phrase to Owen after he tells the story about Bruce—it turns out that he’s the only one of the three to let things slide. Although it took courage for Owen to fire an old family friend and Terry to finally take things to the next level with Erin, Joe’s move certainly wasn’t cowardly. By letting the guy go, Joe signals that he’s once again done with gambling. We hope he stays that way.
— Enter to Win: Follow Joe’s Path to the Senior Tour —
The creators of Men of a Certain Age have made it clear that Joe (Ray Romano) isn’t gonna have an easy time making it to the PGA Senior Tour. Luckily, entering TNT’s “Follow Joe’s Path to the Senior Tour” Sweepstakes shouldn’t be so torturous. Click over to TNT’s website, enter in some basic info, and two of you could win a set of custom golf clubs. If you’re an abysmal golfer with a janky set of clubs, it’ll transform you straight away into an equally abysmal golfer with a sweet new set of clubs (worth somewhere around $1,250). You’ll still get condescending stares at the country club, but now they’ll just be because you suck at golf.
The contest will be open until July 29th, 2011. No purchase necessary. Full rules here.