First off, allow me to apologize for skipping episode 11. I was on vacation last week, and I didn't get a fellow AV Clubber to cover for me in time. So, to the dozen or so of you who have been watching this show along with me, I'm sorry. But episode 11 was basically all set-up for the season finale—Jackie flips out at tap class; the hospital gets a Pill-o-Matix; Coop is in luuuuve with Jackie basically because he has mean mommy issues; Zoey almost killed a film critic (who probably deserved it, amiright? Critics are terrible people who criticize things! Someone should do something about them.) when she gave him a wrong painkiller dose; HusbandBot 3000 sunk to new levels of blandly perfect and boring; and a now-unemployed Eddie followed Jackie to the bar and saw her with HusbandBot and the kids.
Tonight's episode picked up where the Eddie-following-Jackie cliffhanger left off: With Jackie and HusbandBot being all happy couple lovey-dovey in the bar the next day, and Eddie lingering outside, waiting. But for what? What will Eddie do? Will he tell HusbandBot about the affair? Will he punch HusbandBot in his robot face? As it turns out, Eddie spends his day drinking with, observing, and befriending HusbandBot, who just can't help but gush about the ring he bought for Jackie, and how his heroic nurse wife comes home from the night shift and asks if she can make him breakfast.
Eddie and HusbandBot's bar time provides most of the tension in an episode that turned out to be 85% comedy, 15% drama—a pretty good ratio for a show where the drama can lapse into chicken soup sentimentality. There was a lot to like about the lighter fare tonight, especially grey-scrubs-wearing Zoey's guilt over putting the cranky critic into a coma. When he finally wakes up, seemingly now devoid of any movie knowledge unrelated to the awesomeness of Showgirls, and rabbit-scrubs-clad Zoey says, "I think I broke him," Merritt Weaver once again proved that she's easily the funniest person on this show. The Great Facinelli's clueless confrontation with Jackie about their "chemistry" was also pretty funny.
Still, a lot of the comedy in tonight's episode felt clunky, probably because a large chunk of it had to do with the show's clunkiest, most cartoonish character, Mrs. Akalitus. The whole Akalitus-amuses-herself-while-stuck-in-the-elevator thread throughout the show just felt like the writers twiddling their thumbs. It would have been funnier, not to mention more interesting, to see Jackie and Zoey try to defend themselves in Akalitus' office about the critic's coma mishap, rather than watch Akalitus ham it up in the elevator for the entire episode. (Also, she's the hospital administrator, but she only has the number to the nurses' station? Why not just call maintainance directly to get herself out?) Anna Devere Smith is a capable actress, but her character often feels the phoniest (well, second phoniest after HusbandBot 3000).
As for the 15% drama, apart from the Eddie/HusbandBot bar tension, the majority of it happened in the last seven minutes of the episode: Dr. Fancypants' comatose mother arrives in the ER as a Jane Doe, and, alone with her, Fancypants breaks down; Then drunk, angry Eddie shows up at the nurses' station yelling about being replaced—and to ominously whisper to Jackie, "By the way, I met Kevin. And that's a nice bar you've got there." Jackie runs to the ladies room to scrounge her pockets for a stray pill, but comes up empty. Then she moves on to the pharmacy, where the new Eddie, a Pill-O-Matix, can't be manipulated into giving up a pill. Jackie is forced to be honest if she wants to get a fix, and so she punches in her code, takes out three vials of morphine, and finds an empty room in which to down them. Lying on the floor, everything melts away, and Jackie hallucinates a pristine world where she's a nurse in a bright white uniform, in a clean, bright white hospital room. She looks over at her perfect family, smiling and happy in front of their perfect, 1950s suburban house. Grace is even tap dancing. But then Jackie comes back down. The drab colors return, but the tapping noise is still there—it's a rat scurrying above Jackie in the light fixture. "Anyone else see that?" Jackie wonders via voiceover.
It's a good line to end the first season on.
--There's a lot to explore here in Season 2 (which is apparently happening), but I was still hoping for more from HusbandBot in these last two episodes besides bland perfection, and less of Akalitus' Komedy Korner.
--The voiceover at the end felt a little jarring, if only because I'd forgotten by this point that the show had voiceover. Next season, I hope the writers make better use of it.