S9E20: Even over a relatively short three week hiatus, Two and a Half Men has been making headlines left and right. Whether it's Ashton Kutcher's in-flux salary negotiations, creator Lee Aronsohn badmouthing female comedians or Kutcher nabbing the role of a young Steve Jobs in an upcoming biopic, the show has been in a constant state of feather ruffling. Now, the comedy returns — although, the real life antics may be more entertaining. Take it away, Ashton.
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!
1. "I think I'm just going to try and slip it in without her noticing."
We return to the densely woven narrative of Men via Walden's burning desire to see his girlfriend Zooey. She's been gone for three weeks (a decade in penis years, per Alan), and since her departure, he's formed a new software company with his ex-partner and ex-wife. Lots of news — and while Walden can't wait to get back in the sack with his lady, he's also living in fear of unveiling the truth.
In the wake of all the craziness that's gone down in the past few weeks of Two and a Half Men (Alan and Lyndsey's Moms are dating, if you missed that tidbit), a tip of the hat to the Ashton and the writers for slowing things down and keeping it classy. Walden's in mellow mode throughout the episode, a thinker rather than his occasional manchild self and his moments drinking tea with Alan are simple and clever. Much better than wrestling Patton Oswalt, surprisingly.
2. "On the plus side, she's sleeping with my ex-partner."
When Walden does get around to spilling the beans to Zooey, his British lawyer girlfriend doesn't handle it well. Can't blame her — Walden vomits the information out, attempting to cushion it with lame, comforting words that create more chaos. Walden doesn't understand why forming a business partnership with the woman who drove her car through the side of his house only weeks earlier is a bad thing. Zooey doesn't have the patience to let him figure it out.
Is it strange that I prefer Two and a Half Men's light-hearted dramatic moments peppered with jokes over the overtly goofy Alan plotlines? This is when I realize why hiring Ashton was a smart move. After nine seasons, Two and a Half Men could really have done anything and it chooses to (occasionally) play things straight. That's Ashton at his best.
3. "Good job old boy, you dodged the crazy girlfriend bullet!"
With Alan off mismanaging his motherly affairs, Alan continues to persuade Zooey that things will be fine between him and his ex Bridget. That it's all business, no feelings. Zooey doesn't buy it — mostly because Walden's the one who planted the seed in the first place — so the bumbling billionaire hatches a plan: they'll have a dinner. Zooey, Bridget and he will sit down and talk things out.
"Grandma's Pie" is a great display of what Men can do when it doesn't snowball out of control with scatological humor. Take the running gag of Walden exclaiming his inner thoughts just loud enough for Zooey to hear. Simple, silly and universally familiar. Whereas Alan's my-mom-is-dating-my-girlfriend's-mom-how-do-I-tell-my-sons?! thread is eye-rollingly absurd. Come back to Earth, Alan! If you were ever hear before.
4. "Let the assuaging begin."
At dinner, Ashton takes a back seat to a heated back-and-forth between Bridget (Judy Greer) and Zooey. It's a manipulation game, and Walden watches it spin out of control as soon as it starts. All he can do is say "yes," "no" and "where's the pot roast!?" Bridget is mostly positive when it comes to Walden and Zooey's relationship...minus the part where she suggests maybe the gorgeous Brit is in it for the money. Atomic bomb dropped.
This is the defining bit that Ashton haters are going to hate, Ashton defenders will praise. You wouldn't have caught Charlie Sheen playing middle man to two co-stars — his comedy was all swagger and stardom — but here, Ashton watches, baffled, as the two women in his life duke it out in a fury of funny. Thumbs up.
5. "OK, that's one approach...that stinks."
Tonight's episode doesn't end on a big laugh, but rather an intriguing proposition. To declare his love to Zooey and suggest the future looks bright, Walden asks his girlfriend (and her daughter) to move in with him. The two take up his offer, with the catch that Alan would really have to move out. Hmmmmmmm. Walden doesn't resolve this point the next time him and Alan have tea, but it's out there. It's real. You can tell, because Alan is getting the shivers.
Men has the chance to take a bold step. I say do it. Alan shacks up with Lyndsey. Walden with Zooey. Grandma with Grandma. A whole new dynamic ready for skewering.
Total Points: 31 - Four Charlie Sheen Heads!
Blame it on the long delay, my inclination to be too nice to Ashton Kutcher or my distaste for the random old lady romance storyline, but this was a solid episode of Two and a Half Men, a show most people think is burned out. After tonight, do you think the show should come back for a 10th season?