Episode after episode of Wilfred, we feel compelled to discuss the show's DNA because we're all still trying to figure out what kind of show it wants to be. It's weird, we know that. And we've come to expect plenty of raunchiness and dark humor through doggy handjobs and corpse eating (and love-making). And sometimes Wilfred puts its own take on a traditional sitcom trope.
When playing with old sitcom ideas works, it works, as it did with the awkward dinner party in "Control." In tonight's "Honesty," we found Ryan in a familiar sitcom situation: the nice guy who accidentally screwed up someone else's life without their knowledge. And to save face, he tries to work behind the scenes to undo his mistakes only to dig himself halfway to Hong Kong in a bigger mess.
This sort of situation always has potential even though we've seen it played out a million times by whoever the comic du jour is in television and film. And "Honesty" added its own flair with the always reliable addition of cats. But the part of this kind of plot that makes it worth watching is seeing how the hero gets out of his hole. Usually there's some combination of ingenious act and admission of guilt that ends with a lesson learned and either a hug or a spot in the doghouse for the protagonist.
In "Honesty," Ryan got off WAY too easily. And it came at the cost of weakening a character–Jenna–even more than she already was. Jenna has always needed more bite to go beyond being just the object of Ryan's crush, but we only see her through Ryan's eyes as the perfect girl next door. That's why her stoned on-air freakout and transition into Squishy Tits was so great. But when she was confronted with the truth about how her big shot at her dream career was ruined (indirectly, she's the one who grabbed the pot candy) by Ryan and Ryan's subsequent actions that made things worse (he swapped out pregnant Kristen's pee which led to Jenna and Drew's engagement, and he blackmailed Jenna's boss), Jenna gave it to Ryan for a moment before catching her breath and backing off later that day and turning her rage into an apology to Ryan. WHAT!?
Normally I'm not a big fan of questioning characters' decisions and thinking I know them better than the writers do, but here it seems Jenna's decision to apologize to Ryan held her down even more than before just to find a way to get Ryan out of his jam. She turned a shattered opportunity at a career and a hurried engagement after a false pregnancy–all Ryan's fault–into "It's my fault because I flirted with you so you would watch my dog." I really want to like Jenna (partly because I adore Fiona Gubelman), but she's being used as a plot device that supports Ryan rather than as a real human being. I look at Kristen's transformation this season and wonder why the same can't be done for Jenna. Jenna should have punched Ryan in the face for what he did no matter how many times he picked up her dry cleaning. False drug tests that result in false pregnancy scares =/= innocent flirting.
That said, it was still a very funny episode of Wilfred, because, well, CATS! I'm not sure what would have been funnier, using real cats as the episode did, or putting a bunch of cute kids in cat suits and sticking with the same "let's murder a bunch of cats" plot. Wilfred's anti-cat video to Jenna, with Sarah McLachlan tunes, was the funniest bit of the episode and right up there any high point of the series. Regardless of what difficulty Wilfred has with characterization or wrapping up plots, the quality of humor is always there.
– Wilfred's hatred of Dobies was hilarious. Will these parallels between dog life and human life ever get old. NO. NO THEY WON'T.
– I'm pretty sure the episode gave a shoutout to the difficult David O. Russell with Wilfred's director freakout. If you haven't seen Russell go apeshit on Lily Tomlin, it's here, but it's a tough watch.
– How much longer 'til we see Ryan's dad? Any day now, right?
Follow TV.com writer Tim Surette on Twitter: @TimAtTVDotCom