S9E11: We're back from a brief week hiatus, a momentary lapse in the current upswing of Two and a Half Men episodes that concluded with the pre-holiday "A Fishbowl Full of Eyeglasses." A few of you in last week's comments wonder if I'm on the CBS' payroll for enjoying that last couple of TaaHM episodes. Sadly, no—I genuinely took pleasure in the recent Alan goes crazy/Walden meets a new girl storylines.
Just remember: there have been episodes this season that have earned a paltry Two Charlie Sheen heads. Every time the writers swing, they can easily miss. Same for Kutcher
But let's be optimistic! I know you're not all Ashton fans, but maybe tonight's episode can finally win you over. Here's the scorecard breakdown:
One Charlie Sheen Head (1 - 10 Points): Ashton, you were in this episode.
Two Charlie Sheen Heads (11 - 20 Points): Ashton, you landed a few jokes, but we can't stop thinking about good ol' Charlie.
Three Charlie Sheen Heads (21 - 30 Points): Ashton, you earned tonight's laugh track. Solid.
Four Charlie Sheen Heads (31 - 40 Points): Ashton, we're impressed. You've surpassed Sheen-level kookiness.
Five Charlie Sheen Heads (41 - 50 Points): Ashton, you're scaring us with classic levels of comedy. Charlie who?
That's that, now on with the Ashton Kutcher Two and a Half Men scorecard!
"A Lovely Landing Strip"
1. "It was an attempt at a chair-jacking!"
Even though last week's episode left Walden coming to a realization that he may not be completely over his ex-wife Bridget, tonight he yet again attempts to woo the British brunette Zooey into a relationship. But he's a man reborn, ready to sign his divorce his papers and embark on a new path. Though, is Walden really that different? He's still getting into pointless pedestrian fights—in this episode's case, a sassy lady who wants to steal his chair—and acts like a child.
I understand rebooting Walden, but hasn't he learned anything from the past ten episodes? He's painfully unaware of his own immaturity here, which brings a few solid laughs, but also makes one wonder if we're gearing up for a few, so-so down episodes on the writers part, one that soft balls material to Ashton's simpler qualities. I like Walden's new gal pal, but the only reason I can imagine her sticking around Ashton's manchild is for gold digging purposes. Which might be interesting...
2. "We'll slow things down. Forget Christmas...you'll be my Valentine, though, right?"
This is semi-smart writing. Previously we've seen Walden acting like a boy fifteen years his junior in the wake of being cast away by Bridget for exactly that behavior. Now we get to see it in action. Walden finds love again in Zooey and he immediately showers her with praise, gifts and kisses. It's sweet, but also...psychotic. Again, Ashton kind of drifts through these scenes without much bite. This isn't offensive, vulgar Two and a Half Men or clever, pointed Two and a Half Men. The scene lingers in limbo and it makes for easy viewing...while you multi-task something more important.
Unfortunately, that's not good enough! Step it up Ashton.
3. ""Hello, Heathrow! What a lovely landing strip!""
Ah, a scene so absurd that it works!
Walden wisks Zooey away on a private jet fantasy date to Guadalajara, complete with over-sized sombrero, fresh guacamole and a diamond necklace cherry on top. Thankfully, Zooey sees through it and calls Walden out. Ashton plays it earnestly and for once a realization seems to be sinking in—he can't buy the woman you lust after. Funny, in a pathetic sort of way one hopes will eventually blow up right in his face.
But then it doesn't. Walden saves himself with one final gift: helping Zooey's daughter land a spot at a prestigious elementary school. She's won over. Unexpected—Zooey was supposed to be one of the good ones!—but intriguing. If it goes nowhere in future episodes, I'll be irritated by the inconsequential money-grubbing. Hopefully Walden wakes up.
4. "Take Abe Lincoln. He met his wife on a rebound and they had a long term relationship. Until...pow!"
When everything seems peachy, all hell breaks loose (of course). Without warning, Walden's ex Bridget shows up at his door. As Walden tells us Zooey would say, he's found himself "in a bit of a sticky wicket..." Bridget wants her billionaire husband back and Walden doesn't know what to do. So, he consults Alan and Jake for help. The solution is obvious: stick with the new girl.
Maybe the general animosity for Ashton Kutcher comes from his authenticity in scenes like this. He's a straight man here, confused and scrambling for solutions, whereas Charlie Sheen's Charlie would have disregarded consequence and moved on. He was an asshole, but Walden isn't that guy, and he's less "funny" because of it. That's not a gripe, just a truth. We still have Jake to make inane wordplay riffs and penis jokes, but let's give Ashton a wee bit of credit for trying to elevate the show's past in moments like this. He's made a conscious effort to not play to the joke, and that feels brave and watchable (I swear I don't get paid for being nice).
5. "I'd like you to sign the divorce papers so we can both go find people we like better. Friends?"
To remind us that Two and a Half Men is still a sitcom, tonight's episode ends with a grand finale, Walden gracefully declining Bridget's offer to reunite and paying the price for it: Bridget drives her car through the front wall. I think Stephanie Tanner did that in an episode of Full House. An extra point for Ashton's priceless dropped-jaw.
Then it gets really, really weird, with Charlie's ex Rose appearing in a ghost like manner (which may be playing off Jake's reoccurring haunted house joke from earlier in the episode?) to Bridget, who we find spying on Walden and Zooey. Rose tells Bridget she'll teach her how to take revenge...then jumps over the edge of the house. So does Bridget. What?! Did she just die? I have no idea what's going on. Neither does Walden. Two and Half Men writers, please don't drop this storyline next week.
Total Points: 25 - Three Charlie Sheen Heads!
I wasn't as impressed by this episode as the last couple Two and Half Men has whipped out, but do you really think this is subpar to the days of Charlie Sheen? Let's decide why. Why isn't it working for you. I'm pleasantly surprised and glad the show's departing from some of this season's earlier, cheap humor. It's working for me. You?