November 20, 2012

Episode Review: HAPPY ENDINGS, "More Like Stanksgiving"

Happy Endings have proved that it can do holiday themed episodes very well, last season's "Spooky Endings" and "St. Valentine's Day Maxssaccre" were two of the show's best, so I had high expectations for "More Like Stanksgiving" because it could firmly cement the show's status as a  Friends for a new generation if it could nail it. I'm happy to report that it was a success... except for the whole Friends part. It wasn't THAT good.

Alex and Dave were so excited about their new place that they decided to host Thanksgiving even though Jane's been preparing for weeks. Since Dave's 1/16th Navajo, he insisted on creating an authentic meal as a way to pay homage to his background, so when Alex forgot to get clams, he set out on a quest to make his people proud. Along the way, he was robbed by pilgrims, traded his beaded coat for a contaminated blanket and was imprisoned for "scalping" tickets. Everything worked out for him in the end, and he was happy that he was able to get in touch with his roots by facing the same tragedies that they did. Or something like that.

Depending on who you talk to, Dave's the most problematic character because some feel that Zachary Knighton cannot keep up comically with the rest of the cast and because he was saddled with such a weak premise at the start of the show. I can sometimes understand these arguments, but I've always enjoyed Dave because he's a reliable straight man to the craziness that goes on around him, and I thought that his moments in "Stanksgiving" were pretty funny. Sure, him encountering the "hardships" that Native Americans faced was silly and probably a little offensive, but Knighton sold those moments with some decent timing and a commitment to the sight gags. Plus, it was kind of nice seeing a character carry a sub-plot on their own.

My only real issue with Dave's story had more to do with the way his character was written because he did start to veer into that annoying, self-righteous zone that's reserved for Ross Geller, Ted Mosby and Dr. Acula. I'm glad that Dave's been given more to do, but he cannot become the nice guy turned douche. He just can't.

Back at the apartment, Max thought that it would be a good idea to relive their past by watching the lost season of Real World: Sacramento which was how the gang met Brad. The episode in question was the one where they came to visit him in the converted firehouse (that was eventually burned to the ground by one of the roommates), but Brad was skittish about them seeing it. As it turned out, he was not a fan of Jane's when they first met and she initially wanted to hook up with someone else in the house, which obviously caused some friction. The Williams-Kerkovich clan was not the only relationship tested by MTV because it was also revealed (via confessional, of course) that Penny may have had feelings for Dave even back then. Alex started to wonder if Penny still liked Dave and was trying to break them up because she was poking holes in their living situation since he had yet to move his stuff in. Luckily, everything was smoothed over by episode's end after Jane helped Brad realize that their accidental hook-up was the best mistake they ever made, and Penny assured Alex that she would never hurt her.

Admittedly, this plot had some familiar Thanksgiving Day trappings since it's become a time for dirty laundry to be aired and zany antics to occur, but Happy Endings made it all work in its own bizarre way. The Brad and Jane fight could have been trite, but putting it within in the context of a misguided fling that happened at a Real World house kept things interesting enough to earn it some leeway. The same could be said about Alex and Penny's tiff, but they brought enough sweetness to the episode to also warrant a pass. The only one who got the short end of the stick was Max, who did have a minor C-plot about coming out on TV, but that's not necessarily a bad thing because he's sometimes easier to put up with in smaller doses.

Other Odds and Ends:
  • Once again, Alex + food = hilarity.
  • Real World: Sacramento. Brilliant.
  • An ergonomic work hammock. You got love Alex's obtuseness... for the most part.
  • 2002 Penny's outfit: pink velour tracksuit, Uggs and the Rachel haircut. Classic.
  • The Chola Gwen Stefani version of Jane's my favorite.
  • I could watch Max avoid Penny's advances all day.
  • Max was right. Him coming out as greg could have been a monumental moment in television history.
  • Dave: "You guys wouldn't understand. None of your ancestors were at the first Thanksgiving."
    Jane: "OK, neither were the Navajo."
    Dave: "One of our many snubs."
  • "Isn't it odd how our sixsome was basically forged on the Real World, and yet we never talk about it."
  • "Trust your instincts, David!"
  • "Reading's stupid. TV rules!"
  • "There's so much sex, and um, it's aaall hetero."
  • "Jane, come on. It was years ago. I was a moron, remember? I was using body lotion on my face."
  • "And it was 2002. It was such a crazy time. We were all still reeling from the events surrounding the film Vanilla Sky."
  • "Scalping! The pilgrims drove me to it!"
It's too bad that we don't have a holiday every week because then Happy Endings would always bring its A-game like it did during "More Like Stanksgiving." OK, maybe that's an unfair expectation but these kind of episodes remind me of how brilliant this show can be, so of course I'd want more of them.


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