Happy Endings: “The Ex Factor”
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Happy Endings: “The Ex Factor”

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Happy Endings

“The Ex Factor”

Season 3, Episode 11

It feels like every sitcom has this kind of episode eventually. We did a whole inventory about it once. It especially works for a show like Happy Endings where the characters behave monstrously—by any rational standard, there’s no way we’d be friends with these psychopaths. But it’s a TV show and it’s brilliantly written so we’re cool with it. But what if a normal, rational person came around and started hanging out with them? Well, he’d have to point out how strange they are. This episode goes one better by introducing Penny to her new boyfriend Pete’s friends, who are by all accounts a bunch of normal people who sit around in coffee shops chatting but never go on any adventures.

What I especially liked about this episode, one of the best in what’s becoming a truly outstanding season of comedy, is that Penny’s reality check with Pete wasn’t the dominant plot—it was barely a plot at all, more of a commentary, with Penny switching between plots like she was changing channels (the episode didn’t even bother to explain how Penny zaps between Brad and Jane’s apartment and Max, Dave and Alex at the restaurant so quickly, because who cares).

Even better, although Pete is obviously a level-headed fellow who’s increasingly aware that Penny is a nutbag and her friends are heartless psychotics, he doesn’t really care. Neither do his friends, who barely raise an eyebrow at Penny’s thoughtless antics with them and happily say goodbye when Pete goes to leave without an excuse (Penny, frantic, tries to cook up something about a diplomatic incident at the last second, because she’s convinced they’ll turn on her if she goes without a reason). A lot of shows play the whole “you’re crazy” revelation as an excuse to break a couple up, but Pete’s not gonna dump Penny because of some shit he already knows (let’s not forget their meet-cute). I think Nick Zano (aka fake Brad Pitt) is going to be sticking around for a little while.

What’s also funny about this episode is that it has one plot that is very bonkers and entirely self-generated by Dave, Alex and Max’s ridiculous thinking. But the other plot, with Jane introducing Brad to her ex-girlfriend (a pleasant surprise for him) was pretty down to earth, aside from Brad’s manic behavior when he realizes that Jane didn’t just get up to fun college experimentation with Ryan (Briga Heelan) but that they were straight-up in love (no pun intended).

That was a nice twist for what had been a fairly hacky premise—Brad is grumpy that Jane’s dining with her ex, until he realizes it’s a girl and starts thinking threesome. I was rolling my eyes at that clichéd about-face until the show pulled the rug out from under Brad in an interesting way. That moment was very well-played—Brad quickly tries to shoo Ryan out of the apartment like she’s a ticking bomb, insisting that he and Jane go up to sleep in their “marriage bed.”

The rest of the plot quickly got back to being light and silly—Brad invites his ex-girlfriend over, it makes Jane jealous, and they do that flirty thing where they yell in each other’s faces. It was also capped with the revelation that Brad’s ex is also gay and into Ryan, which felt a little too easy, but whatever.

Where I had the most fun was Alex, Dave and Max’s caper chasing down his hot new roommate Chase (Mark-Paul Gosselaar, because of course) who seems to live the life of an international man of mystery. The whole episode was a bit of a waste of MPG himself since the premise is that he’s missing, but he did promise to ruin Max’s life at the end of the episode, so that leaves the door open for a return engagement, thank God.

Anyway, it’s just fun to watch these actors get together and be silly. Dave was playing the role of the (marginally) straight man—still silly, insisting he looks like Dwight Howard when wearing glasses and whatnot, but just a little less ridiculous than Adam Pally and Elisha Cuthbert, who are a genius team of dummies working to constantly drive their respective silly energies constantly higher and higher.

This, happily and sadly, marks the last week that Happy Endings is gonna air on Sundays and Tuesdays. Happily because it was a ridiculous attempt by ABC at burning off the show while pretending it was still supporting it. Sadly because the show’s still ending in March, probably with a bunch of episodes left to air. We’ll see what happens. But let’s get the word out, folks, because who knows what is to be the fate of Happy Endings.

Stray observations:

Max owes Jane $11,000 and three cats. “You’ll get those cats when you get those cats.”

Last week Max impersonated a psychic to help police with an investigation. “And with his help, they apprehended several innocent people.”

Penny doesn’t get the concept of Pete’s friends. “Imagine a world where your friends don’t exist. Who would we hang out with?” “Rachel McAdams? Sully Sullenberger?”

Apparently Dave rescued Max from a well, who wishes he’d just shut up about it. “A real gentleman saves someone from a well and never mentions it again!”

“I look like Dwight Howard.” “Looks like Rachel Maddow with a goatee.” “That’s even better!”

“I never get to have any fun!” “We’re about to go upstairs and have sex right now.” “Ooh! Can you check my pants for monsters?” “I always do.” 

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