I wasn’t able to review last week’s Married, “Waffles & Pizza,” but its score would have fallen in the same ho-hum ballpark as “The Old Date,” making the past two episodes the weakest of this maiden season. I’m starting to worry that the show’s focus is too narrow, its message too repetitive, its insights not incisive. These issues are compounded by Married’s spotty humor; it needs to bring more than jokes to the table, because the laughs aren’t always there—especially when Jenny Slate takes the week off.
That’s the case in “The Old Date,” unfortunately, which centers on Russ pining for the vintage version of himself, as he did in “The Shower,” “Uncool,” and “Invisible Man” (so, half of the episodes). He arranges a date night with Lina on Venice Beach, the site of their old surf shop. Curious how things would have turned out if he hadn’t caved to her and sold the place, Russ drags her (or bitches till she drags him) to the old Swick Surf and Skate—only to find it’s moved to a new, primo location and quadrupled in size.
There’s a brief whiff of tension when Lina tries to shoplift a pair of shades—apparently “the old date” capitalized on the pulse-quickening of petty larceny (I wish we could say the same for “The Old Date”)—before she and Russ are rerouted to the home of their old co-owner Bruce (who’s now bitter and wheelchair-bound, having been shot during a hold-up at the store, which he then sold).
Bruce’s story acquits Russ of a steep challenge, one many of us face at some point: How do you come to grips with the fact that you made the wrong choice, gave up on your dream, didn’t have the stones to make a risky but ultimately super-lucrative investment? I was and am curious as to how Russ would have justified his decision—his life, really—in light of Swick’s cash-rolling-in-ness. But the writers bailed him out, and robbed us of some potentially compelling stuff by saying, “Well he probably would have gotten shot if he hadn’t sold the store.” Which is ridiculous, and a shame.
(On the bright side, we do get a couple funny exchanges at Bruce’s house—
LINA: I’m sorry I’m not Asian enough for you.
RUSS: Yeah, me too!
And this nice callback to “The Shower”—
RUSS: Did you see the size of his shower?
LINA: Yeah, so he can fit a wheelchair in it.)
The B plot of “The Old Date” finds A.J. crashing (stay with me here) his ex-wife’s boyfriend’s mother’s shiva (the mother recently passed; these people are in mourning). Since the hilariously grim, stripperific visit to his old home in “The Shower,” A.J.’s downward spiral has grown progressively less funny. The highlights of these shiva scenes are not A.J.’s insensitive missteps—none of which are surprising; we know where this is headed as soon as he shows up—but Bernie dispensing medical advice, dressed in scrubs for the gentleman’s club where he thought they were going. (The fabric’s very thin.)
I appreciate the silver lining A.J. fashions out of warped logic—he says something like, “She says I need help. That means she still cares”—but man, it was a long time comin’, and that meager payoff doesn’t redeem all the time we spent grieving.
Bernie and A.J. do eventually make it to the strip club, and Bernie gets the last laugh, saying, “I’m going to check her for lumps.” But the episode could and should have ended the scene prior, on the much more poignant shot of Russ leaving Bruce’s with his very first longboard strapped to the roof of his car—a bit of The Old Russ, reclaimed.
Evan Allgood is deputy editor of Trop. He lives in Brooklyn. Follow and maybe later unfollow him on Twitter.