Remember how, last season, Jimmy's heartfelt but doomed crush on Sabrina was one of Raising Hope's key elements and one of its most dependable sources of sweetness and humor? Tonight, like a man recovering basic motor skills after awakening from a 30-year coma, Raising Hope remembered it too, and set out to reconnect with its great lost theme of a sexual-tension situation where all the tension has settled on one side. The show pressured Jimmy to step up his game by bringing in a rival, a new rival, I mean, on top of the one he already has in Sabrina's away-at-college boyfriend, the charmless and little-missed Wyatt. (In a face-saving scene that had better turn out to be the set-up for something, Jimmy also got to explain to his parents why he's been laying back. Since Sabrina and Wyatt get along great when they're not around each other, he's going to make his move when Wyatt comes home for Christmas break and starts reminding Sabrina why she can't stand him when he's around. I've had master plans like that myself.)
The straw that stirred the drink was Trevor, Barney's thirteen-year-old son, played by young Camden Garcia, who is actually series creator Greg Garcia's son, and who looks as if he ought to be singing "Tomorrow Belongs to Me" in a high school production of Cabaret. Barney installed Trevor at the grocery store as part of an ill-conceived plan to reconnect with his ex-wife. (As Barney, Gregg Binkley had more to do tonight than in any episode since he was bumped up to series regular. Unfortunately, the things he got to do included talking over the P.A. system in a silly voice, allowing Jimmy to stuff a hair trimmer up his nose, wearing '80s power-balladeer hair, and collapsing on the floor in the wake of a neurotic junk-food-eating binge, It's as if the writers suddenly realized that they'd forgotten to haze him before he got promoted.) The seeds of love got planted right away, when Barney assigned Sabrina the job of making the kid feel at home. "Welcome to Howdy's," she told him. "Just remember, if you're honest and you work hard, you'll be mocked by all the other employees."
To Jimmy's horror, Trevor had some moves on him. The little bastard quickly established that he was better than Jimmy at all the things that Sabrina values in a work friend, such as watching other people from a distance and improvising a voiceover dialogue based on unkind assumptions about their intellectual capacity and personal shortcomings. It was about this point that it crossed my mind that a smart, snarky 13-year-old might actually be right up Sabrina's alley. The show still seems to think that she and Jimmy at least have a real friendship, but in the course of the last several episodes, it's built up a lot of circumstantial evidence that she'll never see him as boyfriend material because she thinks he's not as smart as she is. She may well be right, but that's only one of the reasons to think that she wouldn't deserve him even if she could get past that, because she's at least as screwed up as he is and considerably less nice. Ridiculing the customers together from inside their inclusive little bubble, she and Trevor looked perfect for each other, in a way that almost made you uncomfortable. As Bill Murray might have put it, many weird areas were gotten into tonight.
The situation provided opportunities for a game young actor that don't come along every time TeenNick holds an open casting call, and Camden Garcia established himself as a force to be reckoned with. If he stays in the business, choice clips from this episode are bound to be recycled on entertainment news shows reporting on his latest stint in rehab. I especially liked the moment when, having made Sabrina laugh by making fun of Jimmy's nose, he feigned hurt feelings because Jimmy made fun of his ears; while Sabrina comforted him by giving him a hug, Trevor made "bite me" faces at Jimmy while making as if to cup Sabrina's back porch in his hands. The good news for Jimmy was that, being a 13-year-old horndog, Trevor proved fickle in his affections, and was easily persuaded to move on to messing around with girls at his own age level,
The bad news was that, being a shamelessly amoral and manipulative 13-year-old horndog, he had no problem with threatening to tell Sabrina about Jimmy's feelings for her unless Jimmy agreed to serve as his chauffeur, pimp, and whatever the term is for someone who agrees to run along behind a pack of girls holding a cell phone so that the overprotective dad who's monitoring his sweet princess' whereabouts won't know that sweet princess has broken away from the pack and agreed to hook up with some smooth player at his love shack for some afternoon delight. The funniest moment came when the outraged dad, who looked like the star of a public service film warning about the effects of mad cow disease, charged into the Chance household, holding Jimmy by the scruff of the neck, and busted up Trevor's big date. "Dude!" yelled Trevor. "Did you not see the sock on the front door?"
Not all of tonight's episode was devoted to launching one of the Garcia kids into orbit. There was also a subplot about Maw Maw swallowing a gold tooth and Burt and Virginia's debate over whether to make plans to sift through the old woman's stool in order to retrieve it. Making the case for it, Virginia enumerated for Burt all the things the two of them could do together if they got ahold of the tooth and cashed it in, and then said, "When I think of it as money, it feels wrong. But if Maw Maw swallowed nights under the stars that I could share with you, I would go through her nooky-ook to get it." That was about as close as the dialogue in this section ever got to Noel Coward. Conceptually, this was, of course, a trenchant satirical commentary on the idle rich who, out of ruthlessness and greed, go through the excrement of society for a few nuggets of gold, and then, because they can afford to, thoughtlessly flush money down the toilet. In practice, though, it was a couple of people talking about running their hands through Cloris Leachman's droppings. I'm not sure that this didn't bring down the tone of Camden's coming-out party a notch.
- At one point, Jimmy resolved to go ahead and tell Sabrina that he's in love with her, instead of waiting for sweeps week. Since everyone knows more about romance than Jimmy, even Burt had good advice to lend about how to prepare for the occasion: "You should have a toothpick hanging out your mouth. It says you have good hygiene."
- Great line that will lose absolutely everything when stripped of its context and Lucas Neff's delivery, but what the hell: "Paul Blart had a humble courage!"