Now that Reagan is the stay-at-home parent and Chris is the breadwinner—at least, he hopes that this thing with Scott might turn into something like that—the first order of business is acute anxiety about whether the couple can handle the switch. Though “Home/Office” was less all-over-the-place than the season opener, it was still scattered enough that it’s difficult to see how this revamped imagining of the show will work. That’s only natural—short of having everyone crash in a plane and try to survive in the jungle, switching roles is probably the most major upset the show could have pulled at the beginning of a new season. Taking a few episodes to settle in makes sense, but you do wish that the show would hurry up and get there already.
This week, as Chris labors downstairs in his remade garage, Reagan has to contend with the logistics of being home with Amy. When should she nap? What should she do about the yappy neighbors? Chris has to explain the delicate balance that he’s worked out over his year at home. “Everybody knows that our tree is stone cold dead,” Chris explains. “It’s literally crapping branches, which is why we don’t say anything about [Gene’s] trampoline covered in pine cones.” Ah, pointed neglect. The stuff any good neighborhood is made of.
Their neighbor Justin’s tiny, infertile dog’s barking finally leads Reagan to break this sacred code, and then she manages to lock herself out of the house. As she watches in horror, Amy drips purple paint on everything. When Reagan finally gets herself in through a window, she drops her phone while stuck midway in. Amy helpfully drops her phone in a toilet for her, and Reagan remains suspended until Ava stops by to push her in. This leads to a predictable crisis, in which Reagan worries that she sucks as a Mom and Chris misses his time as main Amy caretaker.
Ava, meanwhile, has the more interesting plot this week. On a walk in the park she bumps into Walter, played by a less-ebullient-than-usual Sean Hayes, a musical director whom she “Dreamgirl-ed” by never bringing him onto her show as promised. Walter now wears a tiny cowboy outfit and sings for children, and he convinces Ava to work with him on a jingle for a mattress ad. Working with him proves a challenge with Ava, mostly because no one has said “no” to her since, well, before she got her own show. She apologizes to the enthusiastic Walter, who finally lets outs the trapped anger he has over the Ava show affair. “Now I sell my blood for cash!” he weeps. The upside of this whole thing? We get to hear Maya Rudolph sing, which she is actually excellent at. The jingle sounds like something The Rentals would play.
“Home/Office” was another installment that felt like it was doing more work to establish the new system than figure out how that situation is funny, but I came away from it much more hopeful that the post-Ava Up All Night can work out its hiccups and get back to the small, quirky moments that power the whole show. Here’s hoping, anyway.