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"Honesty and transparency make you vulnerable. Be honest and transparent anyway." Mother Teresa
In "Honesty," Wilfred once again delivered a fairly formulaic episode, yet, for a few reasons it managed to elevate itself above the few other equally unimaginative installments, like last week's disappointing "Service." The series still shines brightest when it takes big risks, both in terms of storytelling and cinematography, but of all of the more traditionally structured episodes, "Honesty" is one of Wilfred's finest. One of the major problems plaguing the program is, well, it's usually not funny enough to keep acting like a traditional sitcom, what makes Wilfred's worth watching isn't the infusion of dark humour but the truly bizarre and often rewarding morality plays that also test the boundaries of television's often stale stylistic tendencies. So why was this week more successful than most of the other similarly tame Wilfreds? Well, aside from being the best policy, "Honesty" had a lot of laughs and was simply a solid as an episodic sitcom. Yes, I know that sounds condescending. It is.
"I understand. I mean, it's just that, ever since I freaked out on the air and that whole 'Squishy Tits' thing went viral, my career is just a total joke a... I'm sorry, I shouldn't be complaining to you, it's not like it's your fault."
First things first. If you felt that Wilfred's directorial freak-out was funny but also like you were missing out on an inside joke, head over to Jason Gann's helpful tweet that he sent in preparation for "Honesty." More on that, uh, homage later but let's return to the episode's opening with Jenna on Ryan's doorstep with the two of them watching the news on her tablet. Apparently Kevin (Rob Riggle) was up to some white collar crimes while working for the now deceased Jeremy. Deceased by a self-inflicted bullet wound to the face. Dude. Jenna's not stopping by, with Wilfred in tow, to see Ryan as much as to ask him for a favor and one that hits a little too close to home. As explained later, he's do pretty much anything for his blonde and buddy neighbor with the squishy tits but calling on his father Henry for, well, anything is out of bounds. Even for an exclusive interview that would pretty much repair all the damage Ryan had done to Jenna's career, not to mention self-worth. And the music cue after 'your fault' was perfect.
"His green lawn made freshly mowed. Sprinkler rainbows, dazzling in the sun. A fluffy tail swaying in the breeze. A welcoming purr. An invitation? A game? I wagged my tail, and smiled on approach. That's when... a hiss, a scratch, so fast. Open paws smash to the face, again and again. I just wanted it to stop and all I could hear was the words of my attacker, Meow. Meow! MEOW! Well, who's meowing now bitches!"
Wilfred moves a little out of the spotlight this week, pulling the string from the sidelines and allowing Ryan and Jenna to share some much needed Season 2 screen-time together. Oddly enough, I think this was one of Gann's finest performances, pulling off range (even adding subtlety to his canine physical comedy) that I didn't know he had. He's a great supporting player and a pretty lucky bastard this week with the chance to personally put Jenna's nickname to the test on the porch. It's also the first time we notice the fresh scratches on his face which the scoundrel apparently got from sneaking into Gene's yard. The framing during the sequence is great, with every two shot of Jenna and Wilfred reversing to Ryan alone, with enough room for the others in the frame if the weren't being (purposely) blocked by a beam. Back to the nickname, Jenna now also has to host 'The Squish' for her cable network, a segment which not only makes her super proud to be a reporter but also makes Ryan feel bad enough to lie to her about asking his father for the exclusive.
"Wow. Missing cats turn up totally unmurdered. Stop the presses."
With Jenna gone, Wilfred calls Ryan out, claiming that he'll never call his father and that the scar actually came from a pack of dobermans, or Dobies. He just didn't want to mention the other dogs in front of Jenna and the fact that he only hates them because they're black. He soon reenacting the whole encounter for Ryan while they sit in the basement and three dobermans suddenly becomes five. Before they can argue the difference, two dobermans, the subtraction is interrupted by a nearby meow. After a feeble attempt to conceal the cat sounds, Wilfred's forced to reveal his plan which involves a never before seen pit in the middle of the basement, both taken straight from Silence of the Lambs. Both meaning the plan and the pit. Remember that scratch that's still very visible on the side of Wilfred's face? Well, there were no Dobies, just an lightning fast attacker and the pup's out for revenge. Yeah, against all six! He's got to teach the cat community a lesson and besides, there's that Buffalo Bill inspired suit.
"Okay, uh, you've done the naturalistic shit now, well, it's not shit but you've done that now. Just for the hell out it, let's do one really big. Like, if that was a four, give me a ten."
Wilfred will get around to killing the kitten eventually but first he wants to torment them a little with a string because they are losing their minds. Meanwhile, Ryan puts two and two and two missing cats together and realizes that people might be out looking for their lost pets and this gripping and dramatic story might just be a big enough deal for Squishy Time. Or whatever it was called. The missing pets do get some broadcast time, bumping the preschool lice epidemic, but it's hardly the story that will put Jenna back in the game. And since Ryan's Dad said no to the interview (did he now?) she's considering ditching her dream to help others find theirs, literally, as a sleep apnea machine salesperson in Long Beach. If she were ditching her dream, wouldn't she move to Wisconsin with Drew? Anyway, Ryan's not going to let either of those things happen as he's convinced a heart-warming cats returning to their owners story is just what Jenna needs to get back on track. Wilfred recommends a good sex butchering. They both have their merits but one is definitely the sexier option.
"Love? Are you kidding? Uh, did you not just hear me call Mr. Snuggles naughty and Chairman Meow silly? Ah, look. Cheeky-cheeks brought me a mouse!"
It's also the option that's going to happen since Wilfred went ahead and emailed Jenna posing (but not really posing since he's totally guilty) as the cat kidnapper and announcing his plans for a full on feline sex butchering video! With a story like that she's already been given a big time slot on her network and it only takes some minor convincing (ultimatum-ing) of Ryan to get him in on the snuff film. I mean, he could just tell Jenna the truth. Sorry, wrong title. He could just try a little honesty. Nope, he's in for the film instead and the next scene brings us back to the aforementioned 'inside baseball' sequence that parodies the behind the scenes altercation between Lily Tomlin and director David O. Russell that took place on the set of I ♥ Huckabees. I'm sure it was a funny stretch with out knowing what it as based on but watching with Tomlin and Russell in mind had me rolling, especially since they nailed the bizarre return from stage left and shot it all wide just like the leaked video. Perfect.
"Come on, Ryan. You took care of Wilfred everyday. You picked up my dry-cleaning. You saved my job! You did everything for me and all I did was smile and flirt and string you along. I'm so sorry. Can you ever forgive me?
Obviously not a fan of the way he was treated on set, Ryan takes to the editing bay alone and passive aggressively cuts the video without Wilfred. Jenna arrives the next day, video in hand, but instead of pleased she's not to happy with what she assumes is just about the YouTube, Squishy Tits prank. I thought the video's plea to put down all cats was quite convincing (four million eyes and did you see that one? gross) but Ryan wasn't too happy with the re-edit. As usual though, Wilfred's 'screw-up' forces Ryan to be the better man and realize that Jenna's situation is nobody's fault but his own. He, to quote the great Billy Talent, tries honesty and, after an initial bout of being pissed, Jenna comes out of it with a story and a confession of her own. I loved the way that she so bluntly admitted what all sitcom blondes are doing to their hopelessly friend-zoned leading men. Until the audience cries for the hookup. As for Wilfred, he's about to get on with the cat killing right after he's done with a little snuggling. Alright fine, he's got a confession to make. But make to mistake the Dobies are real. I'd tell you to ask Popcorn and Booksy but...
"Ryan, someone needs to show the cat community what happens when you go around scratching dogs. Plus, imagine how hilarious I'd look wearing a full bodied animal suit."
Perhaps I wasn't completely fair in the introductory assessment. While "Honesty" certainly skewered towards the traditional in terms of what Wilfred is capable of, the episode also managed to not just rely on tried and tested television tropes but also have some fun playing with them. A great example is the ending, with Jenna admitting that their first season (and a half) of a 'will-they, won't-they' chemistry was really just the good looking girl flipping her hair and getting the hapless guy to do whatever she wants. But relationships build and now that some of the air (and Amanda) has been cleared, only Drew and the main secret remain in the way of them maybe getting together and it feeling earned. "Honesty" also benefited from not relying so heavily on just Ryan and Wilfred but instead by shifting the latter more into the (albeit twisted) Jiminy Cricket role and forcing the former to face with his feelings for Jenna, one of the series' major conflicts.
And for these episodes of Wilfred that don't spend too much time 'in Ryan's warped head' (complete with the daring narratives and camerawork that coincide with those installments) to succeed, the the series needs to continue to build the outside world. It wouldn't hurt to see Jenna, Drew and Kristen used more, not to mention bringing others into the fold like the other Newmans (despite the misuse of mom last week) or even the former best-friend James. The storyline involving Ryan's dad could bring some of the introduced/lost characters back into the fold, especially since Henry Newman is now representing Riggle's white collar criminal. Who knows, maybe that could be an arc for next season? Ryan back at the family firm working the case with his former best friend that has him have to 'depose' Allison Mack's Amanda? Okay, I'll stop with the speculating because, knowing this show, all of this will not only be revealed but all wrapped up by season's end. And that's too soon with only three episodes remaining.
Wilfred returns with Episode 10, "Questions," next Thursday at 10 p.m. ET on FX. I know we all have many. Like why is the I ♥ Huckabees reference still making me laugh? "Goddammit!"