When will Ian get a plot line? Not this week!
Now that Mike is back on the job, things are a little more hectic at home – specifically, figuring out who is taking care of dinner. They tried setting up a schedule, only to end up with three different dinners. As they said, “It worked on paper, we just lost the paper.” I might know the feeling… On the upside, Thai, homemade pizza, and quesadillas everyone!
The A plot this week is, as the title suggests, all about hobbies. Specifically, it seems, how Graham needs a hobby besides his racing game. Mike is rooting for hockey– and takes a moment to rib on Ian and toss a navel orange at his head to prove a point– and the idea of having at least one athletic child. Annie believes Graham is creative like she is and is rooting for pottery. After an argument between Annie and Mike, including them pulling the “tell Mom/Dad it was your idea” thing, they agree to have Graham take both and see which he likes better.
It turns out that with both, it’s less about what Graham is into, and more about what his parents love doing. At hockey, Mike tries to demo a shot– and has the dad coaching suggest he help out. This devolves into a dad’s league situation after Mike demos scoring. (“Impressive. You scored on our weakest kid.”) This seems to suit everyone involved, as the dads are all itching to play and Graham is happy to chill in the bleachers with his game.
As for Mike? “Actually, I move much better on the ice. If only I lived on an ice planet, I’d be emperor!” Hello, social model of disability– when our environments are suited to us, suddenly certain aspects of our disabilities are less of a disadvantage. In the kingdom of the blind, the one eyed man isn’t king– because everything is made there to suit the blind. But I digress. Needless to say, Mike has found the perfect after-work activity for him. Mike gets to re-engage with his sense of athleticism in a way that we have little evidence that he has had access to since before his diagnosis, and he gets to blow off steam while engaging in male bonding. (More on that later.)
Meanwhile, Annie is taking Graham in to pottery on Tuesdays. She tries to get him engaged by pointing out all the nifty tools, but he’s about as interested in the clay under his hands as in a week-old limp fish. After he expresses that he likes hockey better, she redoubles her efforts – and a little light bulb goes off over Graham’s head. “Maybe I’d like it better if you showed me. I learn better by watching.” The trap baited, he switches out the clay for his handheld, while Annie zones into the pottery. I say zones in, because she brings home a misshapen leaky vase that she tries to pass off as Graham’s but finally has to admit as her own before lobbing it in the trash.
In the end, Mike and Annie each discover that other is the one actually taking part in the activities – and that maybe it was less about Graham needing an after school activity, and more about them needing hobbies that they are passionate about. After coming to this realization, they resolve to ask Graham what he wants to do as an after-school activity, and we are treated to a shot of him doing kids’ motor racing. Sometimes you just have to be honest and ask what you need and want in your life.
Again, this is an episode where the main conflict is a pretty realistic one. The fights aren’t blown so out of proportion that the tension is the survival of the marriage – something that other shows use to artificially raise the tension on conflicts that can be engaging on their own. I feel like this is a strength for the show. Yes, the show is still growing into its time slot, but it is growing in that direction.
Speaking of growing, the B plot revolves around Leigh and Eve. While Leigh is still Cosmo‘s and all that comes with it, which now makes sense as we find out she actually freelances for Cosmo (go figure… how many of Cosmo’s Sex tips do you think she’s written, considering?), she seems more like an actual person. A really vain and immature person, but a person. Those two qualities are what gets her wrapped up in Eve’s difficulties. In Leigh’s perpetual quest to seem younger, she has managed to use the same iPhone case as Eve. Upon realizing that someone is picking on Eve via Twitter, she decides to “help” by sending back inflammatory tweets, thereby progressing the Twitter war.
After getting help that highlights just how bad she is at computers from Ian (Really? She’s a writer, for goodness sake! She should know how to get things out of the trash!), we learn that Leigh has had writer’s block recently – the best thing she’s come up with this month was about side boob. In another evidence of things not coming up Milhouse for Leigh, Eve complains that the Twitter war has continued in the face of her “help” from earlier. After she gives up on Twitter, we discover that Eve’s a real life version of QWOP. (As much as I love the reaction gif, official Tumblr, can we please have Eve Qwoping? Pretty please?)
At some point Leigh gets Eve’s phone again, and she proceeds to fight back in the Twitter war without Eve’s knowledge. Unfortunately, Lisa “Bitchell” is actually Lisa Mitchell, the biggest real life bully at Eve’s school. Oops. Unfortunately, Ian and Leigh don’t race to the school quite fast enough, and get there just in time to see Eve get her ass kicked. She does manage to learn how to run, though! In the aftermath in the principal’s office, Leigh takes responsibility for the tweets. Congrats on taking responsibility for your mess, aunt Leigh! Congratulations are also due because Leigh’s writer’s block is over, and she’s found her voice — as a bitchy teenager. As little as I like the idea, it’s an accurate voice for her. Like Annie and Mike in the A plot, Leigh realizes that instead of helping Eve deal with her problems, she’s been working out how to deal with her own.
The C plot fits our theme a little less, but it does introduce one of Mike’s problems – Susan “Suzy Jones” Rodriguez-Jones (played by the ever fabulous Anne Heche). When he was a younger reporter in Orlando, she was his intern – and stranded him in the Everglades so she could progress her career by “finding” him. Mike tends to go on about how horrible it was whenever her name is brought up – and her name is about to be brought up a lot, because she’s taking the open anchor position at the news room.
Suzy is apparently the consummate ambitious woman. If she went to Hogwarts she’d be pure Slytherin. In addition to their shared past, Mike’s under the impression that she married her ex-husband – a Latino underwear model – so that she could have a more multicultural name. We don’t know how factual that is – really, Mike, she may have ice water in her veins but if he was an underwear model she probably wanted a little more than the dude’s name if-you-know-what-I-mean – but her actions do prove she’s plenty willing to lie, cheat, and brag her way to the top.
Let us count the ways she proves herself, hm? Suzy shows off that she ended up with Walter Cronkite’s desk, rubbing it in Mike’s face. When her official welcome happens, she turns Mike’s story about the ‘Glades around to show how generous and wonderful she is in a way that makes Mike look good enough that if he tries to point out her deceptions, he’ll look petty. Finally, she brags about her bravery on the streets of LA at her last job, claiming that one of her hands is now numb because of it. When asked to prove it, she staples her hand — and remains impassive even after Mike hits the hand, “excusing” his behavior by saying it proves how investigative reporting is in his nature. (She also takes the opportunity to mock how small he is by pointing out his tiny arms – please let us get some T-Rex jokes in the future, please…)
Harris does see what’s up — he basically peeped in on her freaking out in pain afterwards in the executive bathroom, perv that he is — and admits as much to Mike. However, Harris sees that as an asset. As he sees it “that’s the kind of cold-blooded crazy that’s gonna put us back on top.” I’m not too fond of all the “crazy” talk here, but he may or may not have a point. She may be cutthroat and willing to do anything, but that might be an asset in such a competitive environment.
Mike manages to find two ways, both connected to the A plot, to soothe his nerves about Suzy. First, he blows off steam at hockey. Second… remember that leaky vase that Annie made? Mike ends up fishing it out of the garbage, filling the bottom that doesn’t leak as much with water and the top with flowers and leaving it on the Walter Cronkite desk. When Suzy picks it up to admire it, the bottom falls off splashing water all over her front. Childish, yes, but her’s playing her game now — and she can’t complain because it came as such a “nice” gesture.
I’m noticing a trend of women who aren’t in Mike’s immediate family being a little flat. I guess we’ll see how this goes, because the promo images indicate Suzy’s a recurring character, even if the IMDB page doesn’t even have her character’s name up yet. So they have time to make her a bit more…well, human. Speaking of characters who might not be getting a full play of their abilities at this point, Ian has yet to get his own plot line. Instead he’s been being the prop, exposition, and hand of god for other people’s plot lines. This episode, his scenes consisted of him being really bad at sports and letting us know that Lisa was a bully. (Also, cute little attempt at saving his skin with his prog guy, “It’s her body, her wonderland” line.) Additionally, Mike’s assistant has yet to be anything but a hero worshiping fangirl of Mike. I have nothing against fangirls, but we are a little more complex than that and I hope that we get a chance to see that in Kay (Ana Nogueira). You are turning Leigh around, writers – I hope you can do the same for the others who need it.