Season 3, Episode 3: “About a Boy, His Mom, and the Man They’re Dating” (originally aired July 1, 2014)
Microsynopsis: Carol is at first shocked and then pleased to realize that Daryl (Charles Shaughnessy) has become her boyfriend. Owen is initially uncomfortable with Daryl, but after they spend the day at a ballgame together, Owen realizes he may have found the father he never had. Soon, Carol and Owen are arguing about who should get more time with Daryl. Meanwhile, Ok Cha and Roy challenge each other to a “spice-off,” a competition to see whose tolerance for the other’s cultural spicy food is greatest.
Good: If the writers are going for a Cheers-like sense of place, they do themselves a favor with this episode, in which more of the bar’s space is put to use than just the office in back and the bar up front. As the ringleader of the spice-off, Steve is put front and center while the action swirls around him. With Melanie serving as ringside physician, the nice, easy chemistry between these characters (which is one of the few things this show consistently nails) does most of the work, and the result is a friendly-neighborhood-bar vibe that the show seems to seek but seldom manages. There are two lines of dialogue I was caught off-guard by: one where Hank talks about our forefathers dying so that a black man could compete against a Korean woman in an eating contest (an allusion to Sonya Thomas and Eric Booker? I might be reaching, but it’s funny either way), and one where Steve offers a quick, legalese-sounding disclaimer absolving the bar of any injuries that might be incurred by the spice-off participants. Both lines had me laughing aloud, and that second one was a nice reminder of Steve’s former career.
Bad: I don’t find the ickiness of Owen’s relationship with Carol at all funny (most of the time), and this episode puts it right up front. The others’ discomfort with it continues to be mildly amusing, as a running gag, but I find it funnier as an unspoken ickiness. While the spice-off subplot is pretty good for character development, it’s not especially interesting. Most annoying is the complete absence of Susan in this episode.
Hapa moment: Although the spice-off is framed as Korea vs. America (at least culturally), Jack and Steve side with (and even lay money on) Ok Cha, giving the contest an our-family-vs.-everyone-else kind of feeling. It’s sweet, up until the moment Ok Cha calls Steve a “dumb sh**.”
Overall: The continued development of Steve as a low-key, charismatic leader of the bar’s activity is an encouragement. He’s a likable main character, and Melanie as his second banana works really, really well. Owen has some serious issues that, if the show decides it wants to go there, could really play well in the future for some dark comedic themes, although I’m unsure that would work with the show’s vibe as it currently exists. Still, it’s a pretty forgettable episode, one that even a fan of the show (which I am!) could probably miss entirely and not really miss anything.
Final Grade, this episode: C.