‘Happy Endings’ 3.18 & 3.19 Recaps: “I’m Just Sitting Here with a Towel on My Lap”

It seems like ‘Happy Endings’ has had a hard time figuring out what it wants to do this season. First, the show thrust Alex and Dave back together, which has had surprisingly little repercussions, given their history. Then Brad went through an employment crisis, only to come out the other end firmly maintaining the status quo. Now it’s Penny’s turn.

In ‘She Got Game Night’, a chance encounter with Daphne (Mary Elizabeth Ellis of ‘It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia’ fame) sends Penny into a tizzy that she might be rushing into things with Pete. In order to assuage her fears, she puts together a couple’s game night. Jane and Brad have traditionally ruled the roost at such affairs, but it turns out that Penny and Pete are even more compatible, much to Jane’s consternation.

Meanwhile, Dave gets offered a job at a restaurant called “Knife.” He’s conflicted, because he loves running his food truck (“Steak Me Home Tonight,” in case you forgot), but also longs to dip his toe into, as he puts it, “The stationary restaurant game.” (Penny quickly corrects him, saying that those are simply called restaurants.) Dave wants to consult his psychic, but she’s moved out of town, and he doesn’t know where to turn, even though Alex tries to offer advice.

Despite winning the game night, Penny realizes that her love for Pete isn’t the kind that will survive forty, fifty, or sixty years into the future, and boldly decides to break up with him, which leads us right into the next episode, ‘The Storm before the Calm’. Here, Penny writes a play about a foul plague that breaks the heart of an innocent young man named “Clete.” The play is awful, but Penny will not accept that it’s actually about her relationship with Pete.

Derrick makes a welcome return as Penny’s last-minute co-star in the play. (Dave and Brad get suckered into helping, but back out when they realize that Penny was playing them.) In this case, the two episodes play better back-to-back than they might have separately. However, this also highlights the strange habit that the ‘Happy Endings’ writers have of dangling a big change in front of the audience, only to snatch it away and put things back the way they were.

Still, there are plenty of great gags to be found in both episodes, from Alex’s consternation at Dave’s use of science “fact” (Dave, annoyed that Alex would suggest he get a psychic reading over the phone, asks, “Don’t you know how science works?”, to which she indignantly replies, “Hey, hey, you know I don’t!”) to the increasingly bizarre game night, and Brad and Dave unwittingly being duped into aiding Penny in her play. (“She knew exactly what every straight man would be distracted by,” Dave intones, as he and Brad answer in unison, “Sweet Lady Theater!”). And we haven’t even covered the B-plot where Alex and Max become tastemakers, only to discover that they’re being scammed, resulting in one of the better physical punchlines of the season.

The question remains: Where does ‘Happy Endings’ go from here? Almost every character reverts back to where they started, and we’re closing in on the end. Whether or not this season will be the final curtain call has yet to be determined, but no matter what happens, I’m in for the long haul.

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