Last week’s episode ended with a Grinder first: a cliffhanger! Things really seemed to be Going Down in Grinder Town. Stakes were upped and laughs were about to rain down from the heavens.
That’s not really the case, though. “Exodus” and “Blood Is Thicker Than Justice” don’t come together as a two-part extravaganza; they’re more like one extra-long, pretty-good episode.
This week, most of the jokes come from the vacuum Dean has left in Stewart’s life. Dean so quickly and thoroughly ingratiated himself into every part of his brother’s life that nothing seems to function without him, even though Dean doesn’t seem to be useful at a whole lot of things.
Without Dean to rally them, Stewart’s father and co-workers aren’t really feeling the current prenup case. They have somehow forgotten, as Stewart points out, how they worked at a perfectly functioning law firm before Dean arrived. Stewart tries to rally them with a Dean-style Grinder speech, but everyone leaves before he really gets started.
Sorry, Stewart. Everyone chose a side, and you’re the bad guy.
Meanwhile, Dean is feeling pretty rosy on his first day at the firm that’s sitting across the aisle from Sanderson and Yao: Rozz & Landy.
Dean: I’m looking forward to learning which one of you is Rozz and which one of you is Landy.
Rozz: We didn’t bring you here to learn our names, we know them.
Things are great for Dean. As Rozz and Landy told him last episode, his new firm found a loophole that allows him to speak in court. After an interaction that’d be more appropriate for awkward ex-lovers than reluctantly feuding brothers, Dean reveals this mysterious loophole: Rozz & Landy registered him as a certified legal intern, which means he’s permitted to speak as long as one of his new bosses is present.
After this new development, literally everyone wants Stewart to make nice with his brother: his father, because he doesn’t want his boys to fight across the courtroom; the client, who wants to settle; and even Debbie, who knows that Dean just wants Stewart to treat him like a lawyer.
So Stewart gives it a shot, visiting the Rozz & Landy office Dean has done up to look just like the one he has on the Grinder set. Before Stewart can bring up the settlement, Rozz interrupts, talking about all the people he wants Dean to meet. Stewart realizes that his brother is being used to glad-hand clients, and tells his brother as much — but Dean, of course, doesn’t take kindly to that suggestion, and tears up the settlement agreement.
Their argument spills over to court the next day. Dean objects to Stewart’s opening arguments (not a thing) and then tries to call his objections “comments” (also not a thing), and then Stewart takes the opportunity to stress how much of a lawyer Dean isn’t. They bicker across the aisle for a solid minute before the judge interrupts and calls for “a do-over” (his actual words, which are delivered hilariously).
During the ensuing recess, Rozz tells Dean that he and Landy are going to do the lawyering, then asks Dean to take the client out for a good time. Dean soberly pieces together that he’s supposed to “entertain” them — which is really freaking dark for this show — and decides to interrupt the reconvened trial with his own questions for the witness.
What follows is that TV thing where two characters talk about one thing, but they’re really talking about each other and the only people who buy the ruse are the people talking. You know the one. So Stewart and Dean project their feelings for each other onto their clients — yeah, this is still giving off vibes that feel way more romantic than fraternal — while Todd concludes, “I think they’re talking about personal stuff.”
Thus, the Brothers Sanderson are reunited, with one final twist: Dean bought property behind Stewart’s house and is building his dream home right there so he can always be near his family
Let’s talk about this episode a bit more, though.
The Grinder is at its best when every part of its formula is in play — the gentle family comedy, the legal hijinks, and the Hollywood satire — and it struggles when it chooses to focus on one or two of those elements. That’s not the fault of its cast, which is wonderful, but a bit homogenous. I suspect The Grinder is still missing something, a void that it tries to fill with guest stars like Timothy Olyphant. Maybe it needs a touch more of the absurd, or a bit more diversity, or additional time to flesh out each branch of the formula. Or perhaps, it could use all of the above.
- Dean is a big part of Stewart’s children’s lives too: Ethan has trouble suppressing his rage without his uncle guiding him through meditation, and Lizzie would work through her written “musings” with him. (Sample: “I’m here. I’m not here. I’m here. I’m not here. I’m here.” Or something like that.)
- While Dean is off at Rozz & Landy, Todd tells Claire that it’s up to them to become the office’s resident will they/won’t they couple. An exasperated Claire calls his bluff and just blurts out, “ALRIGHT, LET’S HAVE SEX!” which causes Todd to fall to pieces. This is a weird running joke, but it ends in a pretty great moment once Dean returns and Todd apologizes to Claire, since they can’t be a thing anymore: “I was so excited to achieve and maintain an erection with you.”
- Yeah, I know. That’s one of the weirder Todd jokes.
- Dean to Rozz: “You working on that class-action lawsuit I told you about?”
Rozz to Dean: “The one about ISIS?”
- But seriously. Come on, Todd.