S9E14: Two and a Half Men may not have walked away from last night's Golden Globes with any statues, but there was at least one surpise: a clean-shaven Ashton Kutcher! Gone was his hermit beard and mullet, trimmed up and smooth as a baby's bottom.
What was unknown is if the dapper look was temporary or for good, but as you can see from the still of tonight's episode, Ashton's fictional counterpart is making big life changes as well. Walden has cleaned up his act–but can he can clean up the comedy on display in last week's "A Lovely Landing Strip?" How many Charlie Sheen heads can the fresh faced star rack up tonight?
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 Possum on Chemo"
1. "It takes a lot of work to make it look like I don't care how I look."
Zooey and Walden's relationship has been developing steadily since they first got together before the holidays. But now, the snappy British lady is finally on her millionaire boyfriend's case about the one thing any non-sitcom girlfriend would have never settled for: that damn hair. After months of dating, Zooey finally drops hints that she'd love Walden's mane and "Jennifer Aniston hair do" to disappear, much to his chagrin. While Walden stands strong in defiance, Zooey reminds him she shaved a bit of her hair elsewhere (ahem) and maybe he should consider repaying the favor.
Since the two were paired up last year, I've been waiting to see Walden and Zooey have a real couple's conundrum (one that doesn't involve private jets or the legal system), and this scenario is realistic and perfectly sweet. We always want Ashton to step up and deliver the laughs like Charlie Sheen, but honestly, he's the main character of the show, not the kooky sidekick. He sells Walden's emotional attachment to the beard without going over the top. In the context of Men , that's brilliance.
2. "Another advantage of having a beard: after dinner, you always have something to snack on."
Walden invites a lonely Alan, whose evening plans were set to include "rubbing one out," out on his dinner date with Zooey—a move that only drives her further up the wall. As a reminder of his current caveman appearance, Walden scarfs down a few breadsticks, crumbs sprinkling into his beard. We don't see too much, as the action of the episode shifts sporadically to Alan encountering his ex-girlfriend Lindsey and her 25-year-old boy toy Dylan, but there's enough set up in the dinner to expect an explosion of massive proportions down the line.
I don't love that neither of tonight's plot lines are strong enough to be committed too—Walden's facial hair quarrel or the resurfacing of Alan's love life—but both Ashton and Jon Cryer make the most of it. I'm going to attempt to forget that the episode spends a solid five minutes following the moronic, baked Jake and Lindsey's stoner son riff on "pre-dipped chips" and how bug spray can get rid of "roaches." Understandable why they never use him anymore, especially when you have two solid actors capable of delivering quality work (which is unfortunately spotty in its own right).
3. "If the guys at your work really haven't heard of Steve Wazniack, Richard Branson or Santa Claus, then fine!"
When chances of Walden shaving his beard are looking grim, Zooey finally lays her hand on the table. There's a work party, she's about to make partner and she doesn't want to attend with the unabomber. Walden may be committed to the look, but at the end of the day, he's all about being a good boyfriend. He promises to Zooey that he'll shave and that's the end of the conversation.
Maybe I'm feeling extra kind to tonight's Two and a Half Men because I'm helpless to something so simple, so harmless and so lovey dovey, but I enjoyed Ashton's handful of pained reactions during this truth-revealing, yank-the-band-aid scene. The moment when Zooey drops the ""Hipster Jesus" description is Ashton showing off his A-game.
4. "Are we going to your stupid office party or what? [SLAM] I guess you're going with the or what!"
Then the real truth comes out. While Alan's off winning his girlfriend back from her supposed gay boyfriend (and can I just say that her son's description of "Big poof. Always hugging me too long," whether true or not, is one of the more offensive bombs I've ever heard Men drop?), Walden arrives at Zooey's apartment with beard intact. This sets off the couple's first real fight. Walden promised Zooey he'd shave. Walden promised to get her to stop nagging. He lied! This is the explosion I was talking about.
Walden can't help but devolve into his inner-child in scenes like this, for better or worse. Ashton does a decent job, but it's a little tiresome after all the "growing up" we've seen him do since the premiere last Fall.
5. "Turns out when you weren't nagging me, I wanted to."
While I enjoyed most of "A Possum on Chemo" a series of fart jokes stood to annihilate all of the good will. Thankfully, a sweet cap to the episode saved the day.
After feeling terrible about her manscaping request, Zooey rushes over to Walden's home to apologize. What she finds is her boyfriend trimmed and shave, Mr. Schmidt by way of James Dean (OK, that's a little crazy, but it's an interesting haircut). There's no joke here, just a bashful admission from Ashton that he wanted to do something nice and that whole "in love" thing tooootally never happened (it did, of course, and it was equally lovely). The two rush away to make love, leaving Alan alone to smell Lindsey's flatulence.
Total Points: 31 - Four Charlie Sheen Heads!
The current Two and a Half Men is a weird breed of sitcom that actually benefits from keeping up with the story lines (as opposed to every episode being a one-off). If you're familiar with the characters past and their wacky adventures, there's something more to gain from the sweeter, less overtly comical moments. That's tonight. Not hysterical - but really, did Charlie Sheen ever have any moments in Men that made you go "awwww"?