Bad dreams and high hopes keep the guys up all night.
“Whatever Gets You Through the Night” strings together its three plotlines with the up-all-night problem. Insomnia doesn’t strike everyone for the same reasons, though. Sure, we’ve all been woken up at 4 AM by an imminent deadline or money troubles. But sometimes it’s a girl who’s planted herself firmly in our brains or a great idea that just won’t give you any rest. This week’s episode of Men of a Certain Age presents us with a full set of insomnia-inducers.
Joe (Ray Romano) has managed to once again kick the gambling thing, but now he has to return to his life and all that crap he neglected. The store’s looking sorta jank—the jukebox’s broken—and Joe’s employees are demanding a raise since he’s been forcing them to run the store while he’s out gambling. So Joe decides to close the store down for a day to repaint, and, after a quick hiccup involving the raise issue, he gets the store back to being presentable.
Owen (Andre Braugher) is seeing way too much red at Thoreau, and he decides to try to reverse the dealership’s fortunes by responding to Scarpulla Chevrolet’s sublimely stupid commercial—complete with Scarpulla himself in a gold chain and b-boy getup. Owen’s fairly desperate at this point; when something goes awry during his “free car wash” promotion, he suffers from a panic attack bad enough that he can barely slide himself across the couch to pick up the phone.
Things are actually going pretty well for Terry (Scott Bakula) this week, who seems to be settling in nicely with Erin (Melinda McGraw), who’s moving all her crap slowly but steadily into his apartment. He’s not particularly stoked about the commercial Owen’s shooting, though, since he’s the star of it. At this point, Terry seems pretty determined to put his acting career behind him, and he’s not anxious to stir the pot with something as lame as a car commercial.
And ho boy, does it turn out to be lame. Complete with a melodramatic crane shot and some hackneyed bullshit about “the new being better than the old,” the commercial is everything Scarpulla’s isn’t, including “entertaining.” So, on the fly, Terry convinces the director to scrap the treatment and put Lawrence (Matt Price; seriously, can this guy do no wrong?) in a bunch of stupid costumes in front of a green screen. Everyone except Owen Sr. (Richard Gant) seems pleased with the results, and the director’s impressed enough with Terry’s acumen that she subtly hints that he should maybe look into directing…which he stays up all night thinking about.
The episode takes a turn from the mostly rosy when Manfro (Jon Manfrellotti) finds out Joe’s been taking bets on his behalf. In a side of him we’ve seen no trace of this season, Manfro trashes the store and knocks Joe into the jukebox (“SEE WHAT YOU MADE ME DO”), knocking out his tooth. It’s a truly unsettling scene and a dramatic high watermark of the season. It’d be perfect if a jokey button at the end of the scene (“You gotta put the tooth in milk!”) didn’t suck all the tension right out of the thing.
Terry arrives as Joe’s searching amidst the rubble of his trashed store for his tooth and takes him promptly to the dentist. Unfortunately, Joe’s ex, Dory (Sarah Clarke), happens to work at that same dentist’s office. The two initially stumble through a few awkward minutes, but Joe eventually manages to get her alone for long enough to tell her that she was right about his gambling. She tells him to not “let Bad Joe win” because Good Joe’s kinda great.
“Whatever Gets You Through the Night” doesn’t push the characters forward all that much, but, then again, not every episode needs to. And this one offers up some truly spectacular emotional and comic set-pieces. The second half of Men of a Certain Age’s second season has been uniformly excellent. Too bad we’ve only got one ep to go.