Men Of A Certain Age throws a curveball in its half-season finale “Let The Sunshine In,” changing out the storytelling style that’s pertained for most of the second season so far. We open with the three principals struggling separately, as usual. Joe can’t sink five putts in a row, so he has to give away his Lakers tickets, even though everyone tries to convince him that since he made this bet with himself, he’s under no obligation to follow through. (But “once it’s on the scorecard it’s an official mind-bet,” Joe explains.) Owen’s grappling with the revelation that his business is $400,000 in debt, and that he can’t get his sales force the new desk chairs or new business cards he promised. And Terry’s enjoying his low-pressure new relationship with Erin, until she tells him she’ll be spending a weekend chaperoning at a renaissance festival with her ex-boyfriend, at which point Terry wonders whether he should’ve been more territorial.
So with all those balls hanging in the air, the guys decide to head out on a road trip, to spend the most extended time they’ve spend with each other yet this season. The reason for the trip? Terry is getting a colonoscopy, and wants to make the occasion more special by scheduling it in Palm Springs, in between golf and drinks and steak dinners with his friends.
After all my complaining about MOACA keeping its characters apart so much this year, it was a pleasure to see them playing off each other for almost an entire episode. Joe gets to irritate his friends with his music choices again, this time by playing “Let The Sunshine In” and pontificating about “the best lyric ever written.” (That would be “silence tells me secretly… everything,” which Joe interprets as “gotta look behind the curtain.”) The guys encourage Joe to stop and see his dad (played once again by Robert Loggia), who embarrasses Joe by looking at Owen and saying, “Hey, I voted for your guy.” They finally make it to their resort and hit the links, but Joe’s irritated that the club sticks them with a fourth: a woman named Lizzy who cheers his every shot, even when Joe knows they’re lousy. (“Sometimes a shot looks good off the club…,” he grumbles.) And the bad feeling extends into the evening, as Joe wants to hang out in Owen’s room and watch his TV, since the 82 he shot earlier in the day means that he’s denying himself access to his own room’s TV. A fed-up Owen decides to duck Joe by heading down to the hotel’s casino, where Joe can’t follow, while Terry—who’s upset that he hasn’t gotten any texts from Erin since he left home—heads down to the bar to hit on the women there for a bachelorette party. But just as Terry seems like he’s about to score, and just as Owen gets on a roll at the craps table, the pre-colonoscopy laxatives that all three men took earlier kick in, and they have to abandon all other plans and head back to their rooms to take care of business.
The rumbly bowel joke is crude, but funny, and a well-plotted moment. (Where else will you see a laxative as Chekhov’s Gun?) And the scene the next morning of the men in their respective hospital beds—with Joe going without anesthesia, because being knocked out scares him—makes for a nice follow-up, underscoring that whatever else is going on their lives, these guys are ultimately at the mercy of their own bodies. I liked what happens next too, with Joe ruining everyone’s dinner plans because he lost another of his “mind bets” and now can’t eat steak. (Notice how the bets are always punitive with Joe, never rewarding.) Then the episode goes a little broad, as Owen gets drunk while waiting for a table at the restaurant and subsequently takes a swing at a burly man who doesn’t like him trying to hold a barstool for Terry.
But “Let The Sunshine In” ends well, with our heroes settling for the “best tacos ever” and some frank talk about what’s bothering each of them. Joe’s confession is the most revealing; he points out that his mind bets are starting to hurt other people, making them just as bad as real bets, and he nods when Owen tells him that he needs to go back to G.A. Then Owen’s speech is the most dramatic (making great use of Andre Braugher’s acting chops), as he explains that what bothers him most about his dealership woes is that it just shows that his father never gave any thought to what he was leaving for his son. “Wasn’t he supposed to look out for me?” Owen asks.
So in the end (no pun intended), the colonoscopy vacation has some metaphorical weight for our Men. The reason to have the procedure is preventative. “Better to find out, right?” Terry says about getting checked for signs of cancer. Their test results have come back clean. But now they’re finally facing the other kinds of rot in their lives. Time to take steps.
-Terry is annoyed that the guys think it’s funny when he says he wants his trip to “take the onus off” having a colonoscopy. He makes a rule that there be no puns on the trip, but according to Joe and Owen that’s “half the reason to go.”
-Joe tells Owen that he doesn’t like Lizzy because every time he hits a shot, she says “nice one.” Owen’s response: “Bitch.”
-Owen’s not in the best mood himself on the golf course. Glaring at Joe, he says, “The way you wear your sunglasses on your hat… that shouldn’t piss me off, but it really does.”
-Even though Joe has an ulterior motive, it’s still kind of sweet when he tells Owen that just wants to hang out in his hotel room, like they did in their college dorm. Always nice to be reminded why these guys are friends in the first place.
-Very funny watching Joe try to will his friends into switching on the golf tournament: tossing them the remote, making a suggestion that they change the channel, muttering “channel 72, I think,” etc. Too bad that Owen wants to watch Quincy.
-Nice piece of visual storytelling: When we see Terry texting Erin from his phone, we also see that his previous text is sitting right above his new one, unanswered.
-Joe tries to cheer up Owen by telling him he can come into the store and get any balloon he wants. “Regular, mylar… not a piñata, though.”
-Wrist punches are really effective. It’s the hardest part of the hand!