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Running Wilde Watch: Into The Wilde

My expectations for this episode were exceeded. Now I’m not sure if I thought this episode was funny because those aforementioned expectations were so low or because the show was actually funny – I’ll have to think about that – but there is no denying that Running Wilde’s second episode is tenfold better than the pilot.

Now forgive my associations, but I simply cannot watch this show without thinking about Mitchell Hurwitz’s prior work, Arrested Development; in tonight’s episode, some of that longed-for sharp dialogue and quirky situational humor briefly appears. However, the painful narration by the 12-year old Puddle rears its ugly head as well, among other things.

The episode begins with Steve hiding from Emmy’s annoying daughter because…well…she’s annoying him. He ends up lying down with Fa’ad, talking in the back of Fa’ad’s SUV. While prostrate, Fa’ad confusingly insinuated an interest in Steve, who tells him that he will be taking Emmy and Puddle on vacation this fall, as his family excluded him from their own. Fa’ad astutely observes that this will never happen because of Emmy’s distaste for Steve’s lifestyle. Thwarted, Steve decides to vacation alone.

Upon going inside, Steve almost catches Emmy in his lavish quarters, gorging herself on fruit whilst shaving her legs and taking a giant bubble bath. However, she plays it off by telling him that his dishwasher broke, so she was doing her dishes in the bathtub. Steve responds with, “Just shove it in his chest” and he’ll get to work. Almost missed that one.

When Puddle relays the news to Emmy that Steve will be vacationing by himself, she gets upset. After one of those “arguments” where two people vociferously say the same thing, they plan a “family” vacation to Steve’s cottage/cabin in the woods.

Up to this point, the episode has been, surprisingly, very good. Things start to take a turn for the worse once Emmy’s fiancé, Andy (David Cross), shows up. He has hitched a ride on a garbage barge from the Amazon and is supremely upset with Emmy compromising her principles for the luxuries of the “McTree Mansion” in which she is now living. When Steve comes to take Emmy and Puddle away to the cabin, chaos ensues and Andy, Steve, and Emmy get tangled up on the treehouse ladder, for nobody can properly understand each other through the floor. Needless to say, vacation is canceled.

Steve cannot believe that Andy is her fiancé: she is pretty, and he’s “a poor man’s…poor man.” Undeterred, Steve consults Migo, who tells him that he should be kind to Andy, then Andy will look like the jackass when he’s disparaging him. In the words of Steve, “Kill him with kind of being nice to him… I like the sneakiness of your people.”

Meanwhile, Andy is scheming to “kidnap” Steve – by reaching out as a friend to take him on vacation. While on vacation, he will send Steve’s dad a ransom note demanding money, which he will then use to further his humanitarian missions. Steve and Andy are now both attempting to be kind to each other for their own underhanded motives, so when Andy begrudgingly asks Steve to go on vacation with him, Steve begrudgingly accepts. To the cottage/cabin in the woods it is.

After immediately leaving to hike to the cabin, Emmy figures out that Andy has kidnapped Steve. She and Fa’ad set off to put a stop to this mess. Right about this time, Andy and Steve can’t continue the charade, and verbal sparring ensues in the woods as both realize they have no idea where this cabin actually is – even though Steve owns it, he’s never been.

Emmy, Fa’ad, and Migo eventually find Andy in the woods and Steve in the cabin. Throughout this episode, the idea of what one is “worth” is brought up time and again. Steve only thinks about this term monetarily until Migo tells him that his father decided not to pay the ransom, choosing to “sit this one out.” Steve understands what he is really worth, it seems.

In the end, all decide to stay at the cabin for “vacation,” and Steve makes a blatant and ill-timed attempt to sleep with Emmy before she says she will be sharing a bed with Puddle.

Takeaways:

• The episode started out very strong, relying on great dialogue and further developing the characters. The last half was subpar, however, as Puddle’s narration and cheaper, less witty humor dominated.

• Use of recurring jokes throughout the episode reminded me a lot of Arrested Development .

• Fa’ad, Emmy, Andy, and Steve are the strong characters in this show.

• Mr. Lunt and Puddle – especially her narration – are a serious drag. While Migo didn’t provide laughs, he juxtaposes Arnett’s (Steve’s) outlandishness quite well.

• The cheesy music was gone from this episode. Much better.

• It appears that Fa’ad also has an interest in Emmy; this should bring out some great competition between the über-rich neighbors.

While this second episode was not outstanding, it showed enough improvement that I have hopes for it going forward. One can see shades of Hurwitz’s greatness, but I feel like he needs more than four strong characters to make this show work. Arrested Development was so good because of the distinctly defined, quirky and dysfunctional personalities, how they interacted with each other, and the chaos and confusion that inevitably followed.

Obviously this isn’t the same show, and it’s not fair to expect the same things. Morgan Freeman in The Shawshank Redemption sums it up best, I think: “…the place you live in is that much more drab and empty that they're gone. I guess I just miss my friend.”

Running Wilde is still trying to find it’s voice. It made heaps of progress this week, and I’ll be back for more next week. And this time I am much more optimistic about what comes next.