S9E16: Two and a Half Men is on a role.
It would seem that way after two weeks of solid half hours, last week's "The Duchess of Dull-in-sack" exceeding all expectations. In his sixteenth week, Ashton Kutcher is continuing to deliver while never settling in to a rhythm. The question is, can he keep it up? Well, an episode of Two and a Half Men is like a box of chocolates, after all...
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!
"Sips, Sonnets and Sodomy"
1. "Let's leave it alone. We've already seen one beheading tonight."
Valentine's Day brought on a wonderful opportunity for Two and a Half Men: the chance to explore our bumbling duo's female counterparts. Men has always been a show dominated by the male perspective—who are Alan and Walden (and formally Charlie) sleeping with and can they keep up their relations?—but with both characters in committed relationships, and wildly different ones at that, the show is primed for departure. Tonight was the night, and while Ashton nor Jon Cryer, they did a solid job alley-ooping Sophie Winkleman and and Courtney Throne-Smith as Walden's gal Zooey and Alan's girlfriend Lyndsey, respectively.
When the ladies first bump heads, the red alert goes off in Walden's head. Instead of jumping and stealing the spotlight, Ashton effectively hangs in the background, popping in for the quick-breathed quip. These two two fems have their own set of harsh tongues and Men was smart to have the two leads stand out of the way.
2. "I took you to the opera so you would have sex with me!"
Ashton's Walden may not be the smooth operator that Charlie once was, but he is a romantic—and there's no better playground for him than Valentine's Day. Amidst Zooey and Lyndsey's battle of words (and sex noises), Walden attempts to work his magic, but to no avail. With every peppered kiss, Walden stokes Zooey's fire until the battle takes precedent over planned lovemaking. Cue sad puppy dog face.
3. "...bad laugh?"
The next morning, Walden and Alan reconvene in the kitchen for a post-battle recap. Walden admits the night of ooh-ing and aah-ing was all a sham, while Alan...suggests it was the best night of his sex life. Oh well. What the two quickly realize is the fued between their two significant others is escalating—all while a torrential downpour wrecks havoc on the outside world. Just when the insults, character attacks and period jokes hit crescendo, a thunderous sound alerts the quarter that something unimaginable has gone down nearby. Yes, a sinkhole has collapsed the street. Valentine's Day plans officially canceled.
Rarely do we see Two and a Half Men as snippy, fast-paced and sharp as tonight's episode. Perspective bounces back and forth between the warring ladies and the petrified men—heck, you'd almost imagine these four were staging some Broadway play. That's a high recommendation for a show that doesn't mind stooping to the cheapest joke possible. I loved Kutcher and Cryer in this episode, their side conversations on gauging the war of words as exciting as the colorful insults flying in foreground. I know a lot of you wish Charlie could come back, but this is kitchen scene in particular is my evidence for why Ashton-led Two and a Half Men is an entirely different and welcome beast.
4. "Are you out of your mind!? [WALDEN!] I'll come with you."
With the electricity down, each couple takes to their respective corners in the house. Zooey wants Walden to back her up. Lyndsey needs Alan to get her tampons. Even in the middle of a hurricane, Alan is up for the task and Walden, realizing his own situation, quickly follows. The episode slows down a bit after the bloody kitcher skirmish, but it's a perfectly relatable fallout. Walden and Alan are two buddies without a clue, perfectly willing to back each other up just to end the fighting. And by "back each other up," I mean step out into a deathly storm.
5. "Nothing says I love you like Q-tips adnd stool softener."
With the gents gone, Zooey and Lyndsey find a moment to bond over a bottle of Wisconsin's finest white wine and gossip stories about their two manchildren. There's hints that Zooey might be plotting to puppet Walden into staying with her longterm—but that's for the future. While the two ladies girltalk, Walden and Alan navigate the torturous world of stormy Los Angeles streets ("Weird how people in LA make such a big fuss over rain!") in hopes of making it to the drug store. I'm always impressed when Two and a Half Men can pull off big production value like a hurricane, or when Ashton and Cryer can still bring the funny while being whipped around by nature's worst.
Alan ends up being swept away by a mudslide, but not before receiving a helping hand from his billionaire buddy. The show ends there, a lowkey moment that's satisfying and chuckle-worthy. A solid, supporting performance by Ashton—impressive and rare when you're the "star" of the show.
Total Points: 36 - Four Charlie Sheen Heads!
"Sips, Sonnets and Sodomy" wasn't a typical Two and a Half Men, but that's the appeal. What makes Ashton a suitable replacement for Charlie Sheen is that he doesn't need to be the main attraction every half hour. If the writers want to play with side characters, they can—and Ashton rises to the occasion, fitting comfortably into the bathroom. I don't mind being hammy here: this episode can certainly be my (Monday night sitcom) Valentine.