Holiday-themed sitcom episodes are always tricky proposals; it’s easy for writers to get sucked into penning sappy storylines. I consider How I Met Your Mother to be the gold standard of Thanksgiving episodes, having given us both "Slapsgiving" and "Blitzgiving." After "More Like Stanksgiving," it looks like Happy Endings is ready to join that rarified air.
First off, "More Like Stanksgiving" was an excellent Happy Endings episode, possibly the best one of Season 3 thus far. Every character was in play, every member of the group delivering line after line of great material. The actual holiday of Thanksgiving was a part of the episode without the entire thing coming off like an after-school special. There wasn’t some gooey message telling us how to feel at the end. And like HIMYM’s "Slapsgiving" and "Blitzgiving" episodes, the story in this episode wasn’t exactly the family dinner stuff Norman Rockwell would’ve painted. Dave claiming to have experienced the entire Native American plight because he got caught scalping tickets? Brilliant.
After living together (again) for four weeks, Dave and Alex invited the rest of the gang to their place for Thanksgiving dinner. Dave, embracing the fact that he's 1/16 Navajo, journeyed out to buy the clams he needed to cook an "authentic" Thanksgiving dinner. Brad, Jane, Penny, and Max showed up to help Alex finish dinner preparations, and Max brought a surprise—the finally released DVD of The Real World: Sacramento. What’s that? You don’t remember The Real World: Sacramento? Well, after one of the cast members burned down the abandoned firehouse they were living in, MTV never put the season on the air. Which is a shame, because The Real World: Sacramento is when Brad met Max and the rest of the group.
As Penny pointed out, why isn’t this a fact that’s mentioned more? This is one of the many reasons that I love Happy Endings. These six characters share a history so deep that the show is still only just revealing key parts of their shared story. Other shows might've taken the easy way out and explained everyone knows each other in the pilot, but Happy Endings has chosen to focus on where its characters are headed, dropping key points in their backstories here and there as we go.
While waiting for the moment when Max would claim he was the first person to come out as gay on a TV show, the group witnessed Brad and Jane’s meet cute. Well, I guess it’s only a meet cute if you consider Jane critiquing Brad’s flagrant disregard for hot tub occupancy rules and Brad changing Jane’s last name to “Kerko-bitch” cute. Jane wasn’t happy when she saw Brad’s confessional.
During his Real World appearance, Max was still dating Penny. While filming a testimonial, Penny was asked about whether or not she had feelings for Dave, causing Alex to realize that Penny may have been harboring feelings for Dave all along—even possibly trying to sabotage her relationship with pesky questions about why Dave hadn’t moved his stuff into their apartment yet.
Max’s coming-out moment was ruined by the fact that he made his big announcement with a mouth full of food, and MTV subtitled “I’m gay” as “I’m Greg.” Meanwhile, present-day Brad watched a drunken Real World Jane attempt to hook up with his fellow Real World housemate Jared before winding up in bed with Brad instead. Now it was Brad's turn to get angry.
But while everyone else was catching up on Real World: Sacramento, Dave was still trying to purchase those clams, and he couldn't seem to catch a break. His car, wallet, and phone were stolen by a pair of Pilgrims, so he had no money to pay for the clams when he finally arrived at the store. He agreed to trade his Navajo coat (the one his friends hate) for the clams and a blanket, only to discover that the blanket was covered in cat hair. As Dave sniffled down the street, wrapped in a blanket and clutching the bag of clams, he remembered that he was still carrying tickets to see Rock Bottom Remainders, a band comprised of best-selling authors. Hoping to raise a little cash to get back home, Dave sold his tickets to a man who turned out to be an undercover cop in front of a police station. Yes, the Native American Dave got arrested for scalping.
Eventually Dave got himself released and made it back home with the clams. He shared his story of being robbed by Pilgrims, receiving a disease-infested blanket in a trade, and being accused of scalping, announcing that he'd now lived the entire Native American experience. Thanks to this, Dave felt he'd finally earned the right to a Native American name. He selected the moniker Has Ordeals with Clams.
In the spirit of Thanksgiving, everyone made up, with Alex telling Penny that she overreacted to the simple question about Dave moving in, and Brad and Jane deciding that even though their initial encounter was a mistake, everything that happened after it was not. And it turned out that Dave wasn’t procrastinating his move, he just couldn’t get movers until the following weekend. He'd even told Alex as much, but she was open-eye napping and didn’t hear him.
Happy Endings announced its presence on the holiday episode stage last season with "Spooky Endings" (the one with Alex in a Marilyn Monroe costume being mistaken for a guy in drag), and with "More Like Stanksgiving," it’s clear that the show can step up to the big moments.
– Rock Bottom Remainders is a real band, made up of authors like Stephen King, Amy Tan, and Dave Barry. The band last performed on The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson in 2012.
– Will Hostess's bankruptcy issues hurt the production of NavaHo-Hos?
– Jane and Brad swapping out Alex’s sad-looking turkey for their own completely prepared turkey was classic Jane and Brad. Alex failing to realize it happened was classic Alex.
– Max’s Real World testimonial about his relationship with Penny: “We are like two rabbits... just doing it all the time... there’s so much sex... and, uh, it’s all hetero.”
– I’m surprised no one made any Kurt Cobain references about Dave’s 2002 looks. I guess Cobain is sacred territory.
– Alex: “We can make my famous bad potatoes this year?”
– Penny’s Real World confessional about her relationship with Max: “My relationship with Max is awesome. Sometimes we just talk all night and forget to have sex.”
– Penny trying to explain to Alex whether or not she had feelings for Dave: “And it was 2002! It was such a crazy time. We were all still reeling from the events of Vanilla Sky. I mean, what is reality?” Alex: “I am so tired of people using Vanilla Sky to defend everything.”
– Dave while being arrested: “Scalping? The pilgrims drove me to it!”
– Brad to Max after his flubbed coming-out: “You’re definitely a hero to all the Gregs out there.” Jane: “First openly Greg person on television.”
– Brad on Play-Doh: “I love the way that smells but not the way it tastes.”
– Only Alex would buy a sex swing and believe that it was an ergonomic aid. Also, only Alex would proceed to eat Thanksgiving dinner while
sitting suspended in a sex swing after Penny pointed out to her what it really was.
– Brad to Max as they fought over cleaning dishes while on The Real World: “I just found out your name wasn’t ‘Maps.’ I thought it was ‘Maps’ this whole time.” Max: “Why would it be ‘Maps?’ Who names themselves after a thing?” Brad: “You don’t want to make me angry, dude, cause when I get angry, I get naked, and when I get naked, I fight.”