‘Men of a Certain Age’ – ‘Can’t Let That Slide’: Potty emergency

A review of tonight’s “Men of a Certain Age” coming up just as soon as I have to take off my shoes…

“Can’t let people take advantage of you.” -Joe

First things first: I’d like to take a mulligan on one aspect of last week’s review. While certain aspects of Joe’s day worked out well – no major issues between Michelle and his family, for instance – winning the Cubs bet was, in fact, very bad for him, and all of you were right to point out the incredible sadness of the moment where he’s watching everyone celebrate the softball game and their loved ones while he’s been busy focusing on his latest bit of insanity. I guess I was just so caught up in Owen and Terry’s triumphs that I roped Joe into that, when this show rarely lets all three of its characters be happy at the same time.

But Joe finally seemed to hit rock bottom late in “Can’t Let That Slide,” during that haunting, awful moment when he tries to confront degenerate gambler Marty about his debt, and Marty rattles off his tale of woe. Joe has now gone from being miserable himself to adding to someone else’s misery, and he can see himself in Marty – and can see that he’s been relatively lucky, all things considered, to have only lost his marriage due to his addiction – and it’s finally the slap in the face he needs to stop. I don’t know how long it’ll take, and there’s still the matter of what happens if Manfro ever finds out (if Manfro gets better, at a certain point he’s going to call up restaurant Bill to see if he wants to place a bet, right?) Great scene for Ray Romano, and hopefully this rock bottom takes better than the movie theater incident with Albert last year.

Joe’s epiphany was one of several moments that had “Can’t Let That Slide” play oddly like a season finale, even though there are still two episodes left this season.(*) Joe steps back from the gambling again, and seems to be doing well with his kids. Terry convinces Erin to take the next step with him (albeit only after causing her to wet her pants because he was trying too hard to impress her) and move in together.

(*) But hopefully not for the series as a whole. The ratings haven’t been great by any means, and the show has never been a great match with anything else TNT puts out. On the other hand, Andre Braugher’s likely to get another Emmy nomination (and could win in a fairly wide-open category), the show won a Peabody, etc. Awards do have some value – especially to a successfully meat-and-potatoes network that can afford a loss-leader if it brings them prestige – but I’m not sure how much. I’ll try to remain optimistic while remembering that two seasons of a show this idiosyncratic and demo-unfriendly is something of a miracle in itself.

Owen’s story doesn’t end so tidily – though it does parallel Joe’s, in that both Owen and Joe find themselves being forced to deal with someone who owes them money – but if the season were somehow ending with this one, you could read it as Owen cementing his position as the true head of the dealership by having to let go of Senior’s best friend and right-hand man.

And Owen’s story probably had the week’s best blend of comedy and drama, as it started off as an excuse for that hilarious montage of Thoreau salesmen being terrible at customer service, then veered into a dark place with Bruce’s scam(**), Owen having to take responsibility and Senior struggling to do what needed doing until he heard Bruce try to make lame excuses in front of him.

(**) One major hole in the Bruce story: if Bruce is the one who suggested the spycam idea in the first place, why in the world would he be stupid enough to receive his payoff standing next to one of the cars?

As for Terry, it was interesting to see him and Erin get to a relatively happy place after he’d been insufferable for so much of the episode. I recognize the reason for his behavior – after Erin abruptly dumped him at the start of this half-season, he’s terrified of it going south again, and doing whatever he can to make it work and appear like solid relationship material – but it’s still a multi-level party foul to bring Erin with him to Norm’s (as we see with how both the guys and Mo Collins react to it), his fixation on giving her the perfect romantic dinner quickly verges into weird stubbornness (though I’m not sure why they didn’t just pull over at a gas station or coffee shop once they were off the freeway). But if Joe gets to go insane pretty much every week, why can’t Terry now and then?

And with at least two of our three heroes at something resembling equilibrium, I’m especially curious about where the rest of the season goes.

What did everybody else think?