In television, as in real life, traveling can be a quick way to find out what the dynamic of a relationship really is. It's full of the potential for excitement and new places, true, but also it's a time when all the normal annoyances of life are multiplied enormously. It's an instantly recognizable feeling, that mixture of suppressed irritation and forced optimism, perhaps with a remembered scent of stale Cinnabon. Tonight's
Up All Night
harnessed it fantastically and used the universally groan-inducing experience of flying with a new baby to deliver an episode that was funny and clever, and landed with a certain real sweetness, while showing us a little bit more of why it is that Reagan and Chris' relationship works.
It all kicks off with a little bit more Missy in our lives, thank God, though her role extends to showing a parade of hilariously inappropriate dresses for Ava's turn as the officiant at her friend's wedding. This cold open was actually a great moment in the Ava-Reagan-Missy dynamic, as Ava feels God reaching down “with his E.T. finger” to give her strength, and Reagan half-rolls her eyes and half delights in the slutty outfits Missy models, as Missy complains bitterly about men getting all in the marriage state of mind at weddings. I've really liked the way the show has been opening up the friendship between these characters lately, and though this was a small piece of it, the interaction was funnier and felt less forcefully snappy than in the earlier episodes of the show.
Ava brings Kevin along to her friend Amanda's wedding, and while her stance toward marriage is never (but with a soft question mark), Kevin's turns out to be a far more exclamatory never, which bothers Ava enough that she calls Reagan from the toilet phone while she pretends to pee. Though it's not a novel plot line, I like that the territory Ava and Kevin got into for this episode was less “throwing shoes on the roof” and more “let's actually talk about our expectations.” It wasn't quite as funny, but it felt richer, and it laid the groundwork for Ava as a person who you might actually want to be in a relationship with. It ends with Kevin bumbling awkwardly into the wedding during the vows (“Sorry I don't have anything dramatic to say! Just though the door had one of those hydraulic thingies!”) and both of them promising not to say never quite yet.
Ava's funniest lines were undoubtedly when she was coupled with Amanda, played by the fresh-looking Alanis Morissette, who was apparently part of Ava's hip-hop past. (“They call us the Lennon and McCartney of hip-hop” was another fantastic line.) Seeing Alanis Morissette and Maya Rudolph stalk up and down the stage while breaking out an insanely filthy novelty rap song had to be one of the highlights of my week.
Chris and Reagan had planned to stay at home for the wedding, but a playmate with the wincingly dorky parents-next-door Gene and Terry convinced them to try for it, despite the five-hour flight and potentially cranky toddler. Chris and Reagan's airport strategies beautifully illustrate the two extremes that I, and I would guess most people, vacillate between while traveling: complete rage at the myriad indignities that are committed in the name of safety and courtesy and an over-the-top hey-it's-all-cool attitude that never quite works. Reagan goes with the classic reality show mantra that “we're not here to make friends,” while Chris compliments the bored desk attendant on her nails. They're forced to change Amy in one of the grey security bins while waiting in line, and then Reagan, upset with security throwing out the larger than three ounce tubes of baby lotion, proclaims that they have to get a move on because a pre-nap Amy is “a ticking time bomb.”
If this were a different show, here would be when Chris and Reagan get held up by the feds, miss the wedding, and endure many awkward jokes about strip searching. But because this is Up All Night, there's just Reagan making awkward jokes about “poopsplosions” while Chris whimpers to the agent digging through their luggage, "You have beautiful nails." Reagan, already antsy and crabby from traveling, is miffed at Chris' attempt to placate the TSA agents by explaining her control issues. Which leads to maybe the single best moment of the whole episode, when a beleaguered but determined Reagan is trying to take her seat, profusely apologizing for Amy's crying amidst a sea of scowling seat mates, and Chris steps up to the plate in an act of true in-flight chivalry. “Listen up, airplane people,” he announces. “Please be patient with my little baby girl.” His short speech is one of the most actually touching scenes that Up All Night has had all season, and Will Arnett plays it just right. In that small instant, it seems like we know the whole backstory of Reagan and Chris' relationship, constantly messing up in small ways but still reaching out, sometimes to ludicrous lengths, to support each other. And then Chris buys everyone on the plane beers.
- “Lady Prettylady and Prince Whatshisteeth” would be an amazing animated series.
- “How nude do you want the emotions to be?”
- “I'm Ava; I don't even need a last name.”