I didn’t even know it, but it’s clear what had been missing from the last few episodes of Happy Endings. That’s right: Max’s limo! For the big Valentine’s Day show, we got a lot of fun vignettes, some dumber than others (I could have done without the threesome), all linked by Max’s limo driving through Chicago, and ending with the pleasant and surprising twist of only Max finding love. Well, I guess Brad and Jane still have their love. But they didn’t have to find it. Anyway, it was a great example of the show having its cake and eating it, with lots of joke-packed silliness, but something a little different at the end (Max hasn’t been in a relationship arc so far).
The casting of the very handsome, very charming James Wolk as Max’s beau Grant, who’s playing an ex who dumped him a year ago for being, well, Max (he double-booked Valentine’s Day with a pizza), was a stroke of genius. The mostly-unknown Wolk proved himself a capable lead on the short-lived Lone Star, and having him play an ex-boyfriend saves the show from embarking on a potentially lame “Max’s first relationship!” storyline. How I Met Your Mother has often struggled with tying Barney down, making such a big deal about the fact that he’s settling down with someone that it forgets to invest anything in the person he’s settling down with (I’m thinking of that Nora character).
That may still happen here, since Grant mostly is defined as a... handsome, charming nice guy in this episode. But he had a couple of nice little jokes and a real hint of chemistry with Adam Pally, which saved him from feeling bland. Anyway, Max’s general discomfort at all the emotion and his reluctant move to get Grant to go on a date with him was very cute to watch. It all moved a little quickly, but their status as former lovers made it just about plausible.
Everyone else was just in the zany zone, but that’s alright. The most successful plot was Brad’s trip to the dentist, where he is revered as a plaque-lacking god by receptionists and children alike. After the obvious twist (he has a cavity) and the “goof juice” that follows, he’s a slurring, unsexy nightmare toted around by Jane for the rest of the episode on their failed romantic evening. His demands to see a horsey (which are fulfilled) are a highlight, but his best moment was undoubtedly where he named everyone in the limo after their corresponding Friends cast member. Dave and Alex are Ross and Rachel, obviously, with Penny as Phoebe and Max as “Fat Joey.” That makes Jane Monica (bullseye) and him Chandler (which sells him a little short), but it was a nice bit of fourth wall winkery.
Penny’s insistence on obeying “the break-up window” (i.e. not dumping her dumb winking boyfriend until after Valentine’s Day) was pretty bog-standard, and, much like Brad’s cavity, you saw the reversal coming (Penny’s boyfriend dumps her, despite acknowledging the existence of the window). The same goes for Dave thinking his girlfriend is going to dump him. Obviously, she wasn’t, and the twist is so obvious that there has to be something that goes with it. So we get a bro-y gag about Dave missing out on a threesome and a cameo by some silent, obedient hot lady who was just lying in wait like some threesome robot.
Finally, Alex’s evolution into one of Happy Endings’ best characters is almost complete. She still behaves a little idiotically, but as Jane notes, she’s scary when she’s into something, like she’s into Valentine’s Day, and her insistence on one of the gang finding love didn’t come off as childish or stupid, just dorkily optimistic and friendly. It’s the niche she should be filling in this group, and it’s one she’s really grown into. Her enthusiasm seemed forced early on in the show’s run, but no longer.
- Brad agrees that Penny has soft skin. “It’s like butter. I know because I’m comparing them right now.”
- Alex loves all holidays, including Vienna Beef Presents National Hot Dog Day. “It was on a calendar. Printed. On a placemat. At a hot dog stand.”
- “I don’t do drills or shots. I can’t do pain. Give me the goof juice and put me all the way under. All the way under. I won’t get mad if I make in my pants.”
- Among Dave’s anti-romantic proposals for Lindsay: making beans.
- An even better one: spending 45 minutes photographing a Game Genie he’s selling on eBay. Why sell it!
- Penny has barely said ah-mah-zing at all this season. “You mean this winter?” “Yeah. It’s more of a summer word!” Oh, the fourth wall!
- Dave’s first email address was firstname.lastname@example.org.
- “Don’t patronize me, Monica.”