"The master understands that the universe is forever out of control." Lao Tzu
Wilfred faltered for the first time last week with "Now" being focused on imparting (title-card quote) wisdom instead of laughs, not to mention relying too much on the Ryan and Wilfred bromance. Of course, we want to see Wood and Gann together but any successful and sustained series has to open the world up and embrace supporting characters. But basically none of the recurring cast members (especially the ladies) were there to take some weight off the leads and it felt like "Now" was simply drawing at straws by the time the episode got to the EMO'd up, suicide attempt ending. This week not only features a good chunk of screen-time for Fiona Gubelmann's Jenna and Allison Mack's Amanda but, most importantly, the return of Chris Klein's Drew and that's always a treat, bro. "Control" brings one of the budding conflicts to a head, Amanda's aversion to Wilfred, while conveniently also adding some new but well set-up 'cattiness' between Ryan's girlfriend and his squishy-titted neighbour, Jenna.
"That sounds great. Hey, and maybe you can even serve up some squi-squi-squish, squish-ish-ish-squish squish, squash, squish, squash."
The episode opens on Ryan and Jenna sitting on the beach, reliving her drug fuelled broadcast in the form of the 'Squishy Tits Remix' by FazioMcBonerz99 (actually from The Gregory Brothers). Amanda happens to run past and catch Ryan consoling his beautiful roommate which prompts the pair having anything but the perfect first meeting. Ryan's new girl jogs off not too pleased with, well, anything and Drew calls Jenna all improperly excited about his girlfriend's viral video. Ryan finds Wilfred combing the beach for buried treasure, hopefully there are some sandy mayonnaise covered crusts, and expresses his worries about the poor introduction. Here we get the first of three great dog anecdotes, with Wilfred using the sad, and sickly sexual, story of Rex and Lady (aka the Renaissance Dog and the dyke), to make his point about allowing things to happen naturally.
"I was a business major but this one time, my roommate and I, we had this big argument about whether it was Monet or Manet and, it turns out, both are correct. That's the great thing about art."
And Ryan's feeble attempts to control everything will only end up blowing up in his face. But a dinner party sounds great! Wilfred hasn't even had a chance to sniff Amanda's... I have no idea what Gann said. The scenes on the beach are beautifully shot, in the series typical soft focus, but even with the opening scenes on location, "Control" is rather tame episode for the show in terms of aesthetics. Ryan brings his dinner party idea to Amanda and, after some questions about the squishy tits and why he watches Jenna's dog so much, she agrees to attend. His plan is working? Jenna and Drew arrive first, the latter with a case of Sheboygan Seasonal Pumpkin Kale Ale, and, who cares! Drew's here, bro! Chris Klein is amazing in this part. Amanda arrives shortly after (and Allison Mack's no slouch either, equally sharp and adorable), pie in hand and wondering what Ryan's told his friends about her. Hm, that part's to come.
"Good. I read somewhere that dog mouths are cleaner than people mouths."
The introductions seem to go well, with Drew trying to not be so formal with the fiancee talk, but once Wilfred crashes the back door with cranky pants Bear, you know it's not gong to last. He lets the host take his coat before going in to mingle and immediately bothering Amanda. I've been telling you for weeks, she's got a thing with dogs. Amanda's simply not a dog person. She didn't want to make a big deal about it and I love the way Wilfred slinks out of the room to see if something is burning. Despite his free country claims, Wilfred is clearly hurt by Amanda's lack of love for the four legged and this is also the moment when Bear hops off the wagon, starts slugging back beers and smashing the bottles. It's going to be a bumpy night indeed. And Wilfred (Bear) and Amanda is only one of the brewing conflicts Ryan has to worry about not to mention the main course. Who doesn't love a nice brisket?
"Looks like your lie about Amanda being bit in the ass is about to come back and bi... Come on, Wilfred. You're better than that."
Wilfred soon bursts onto the back porch, Bear in tow (or drunkenly leading the way), and brushes by Amanda's plate. And let the cat and, uh, cat game commence. Amanda requests a fresh plate but Jenna is 'happy' to switch since dogs are famously hygienic animals. Drew, once again, plays the good guy and tries to settle things down with a loving story about his now missing dog Lady. That doesn't keep the ladies at bay for long and the 'I've seen your work' was deliciously sharp and perfectly delivered by Mack. Meanwhile, she's also the brunt of the jokes coming from the animal corner with Bear saying that Amanda finally looks bangable after the six pack he's had. Verbal jests aren't enough though, and the pooch stumbles into Ryan's girlfriend, causing her to pour red one all over her much discussed dress. Ryan pleads with Wilfred to stop ruining the one genuine relationship he's had in two years but stealing the button off her coat to use as Bear's new eye certainly isn't helping. No matter how tight the hole.
"Uh oh, Ryan. Amanda was caught with her pants down and now you're being caught with your pan... Seriously, Wilfred. You are off tonight."
Sometimes you just can't force friendships and, besides, maybe Wilfred isn't the problem? Amanda's not a dog or people person, so what kind of person is she? Ryan's not willing to accept that logic and instead continues to try and control the situation by coming up with a fake, bitten on the butt backstory to explain Amanda's aversion to pups. Wilfred hears the lie and uses his canine knowledge to poke holes in Ryan's story but at this point, the deception remains between the two of them. Jenna even goes so far as to apologize for her squishy tits related testiness and Amanda plays nice pretending not to have seen the video. Don't worry, Drew will send the link. Things are going so well between the ladies that a spa weekend is soon in their future and Gann's face when he breaks the bad news (that spas equal naked) is maybe the funniest thing I've ever seen from the series. In order to put the kibosh on the spa date, Ryan concocts a story about Jenna having a weak heart and can't take the heat. Story bought. Ryan's still good. For now.
"I've never felt comfortable around dogs. I've always associated them with this feeling of... doom. But now, with Wilfred, I don't feel afraid anymore."
The now quickly becomes then, as Ryan walks into the kitchen to find that Wilfred's eaten the pie Amanda brought to the party and when everyone comes in to investigate, the pooch delivers a double pant-sing to prove that there never was a butt scar. Or he just drunkenly stumbled. Either way, the cats out of the bag and Jenna's attempt to stick up for Ryan (aw, she cares) is quickly quieted. Poor Squishy Tits. Amanda shares the real (third) story behind her fear of dogs, a gruesome tale that involves a dead grandfather and a meal of his legs and face. It's truly a droll worthy sad story. Amanda retreats to be alone and before Ryan can even make it upstairs, Wilfred has already consoled his girlfriend. Yep. One of the season's serialized conflicts is resolved off-screen, so to say the episode's ending comes across as too easy is an understatement. No matter how cute Amanda is having her vagina sniffed by Wilfred, I'm not entirely satisfied with the wrap up. "Control" goes out with a whimper, a polar opposite finish of last week's melodramatic mess. It was pretty sweet though. Aw.
"Look. You and I both know the paper swan can't actually talk to Bear but if it helps Bear that's all that matters, yeah? I'm very proud of you."
"Control" was still an improvement on "Now" but Wilfred has become increasingly conventional and perhaps it's time for the series to take the pup's advice and start letting go... you know, because that was the lesson in the first episode of the season. In the preview for "Control," I noted how Bear looked like an excellent dinner party guest. Boy, was I wrong. I love the way the second season has started using Bear like he's Wilfred's Wilfred, too bad the stuffed animal is seemingly a bad influence and recovering alcoholic. In spite of his despicable behavior, Wilfred does manage to impart real wisdom to his owner but the series has started sacrificing laughs and originality in order to stick to the every week is a lesson for Ryan format. Wilfred returns with Episode 6, "Avoidance," Thursday at 10 p.m. ET on FX. Oh! That's the episode FX screened at Comic-Con. It's a treat and has one of the most ambitious sequences of the series thus far. Lesson learned?