Go Directly to Jail. Do Not Pass Go. Do Not Collect $200
I have mixed feelings about this one. On the one hand, J&J are positively adorable in every way. From one scene to the next they delight in each other. Watching them love being with each other so much is why we as fans love them so much. This is our first Undercover Jennifer episode. The look on Jonathan's face when she walks in with the wig is absolutely worth the price of admission. I mean, it's really, really funny. RJ's expressions are the perfect counterpoint to Stefanie's look and manner. Now, the whole undercover thing is really all very contrived, but I don't care, and neither will you, cuz it's so freaking amusing. The next thing that slayed me was the drive home with Jonathan altered by equal parts drunk as a skunk and high as a kite. Of course, if I'd had coffee out of that heinous '70's mug I'd probably end up altered, too. But RJ and Stefanie delivered big time for that drive home. A lot of physicality that had to have been really challenging and really a blast. The best, however, was how they related to each other after he's come down from the drug. No dramatics, just their relationship. She's cool as a cucumber and a little amused as she sits by his bedside (in a lovely outfit with her hair up for reasons unclear). He's feeling contrite and hung over, and so grateful for her. It's a lovely, lovely scene, and it's my favorite of the entire episode.
Not so great was the completely inconsistent direction. When it was good it was great; when it was bad it sucked. For instance, when Max answers the phone in the first block, we don't hear the doctor's end of the conversation until the second or third exchange. Then we hear it, but not Max, then we don't hear him again. That's just lazy, weird direction. I also think they were still finding their way with who the Max character really was. Last episode he's barely able to afford $100 earrings, before that he was rolling in pimp dough undercover with the hookers; now he's back to Moneybags with a wad of cash to rival any bulge those pants will sport. The dialogue was great ("are you keeping track?" "Every penny."), but it did make me wonder if they knew where they were going with Max.
BLOOPER ALERT --> In the very first establishing shot of the lab, the Hart's yellow Mercedes is parked there. Only they don't drive up and park there until a few scenes later. This is what happens when you film out of order so that you can get all the scenes in the same location done at the same time. Which is standard and efficient both procedurally and financially. But you really must have that attn to detail as a director to make sure things are not in the shot that aren't supposed to be there yet. This seems like a rookie mistake, but he was far from a newbie, as he was mid-way thru his working director career by this time. It was just lazy. Finally, I really think the buyer character (listed as "The Man" was woefully out of place. The actor is credited with exactly three roles, and the way he played this really took away from the episode IMO. The director could have fixed this, but I think this was a get 'em in, get 'em out gig for him. Now incorporating the bar mitzvah made me exceedingly happy, but it was also smart, because those take place on Saturdays, which is a tiny detail lending credence to why the lab is empty. I know this is a long review, but I have to tell you, once I got over the shock of hearing the word asbestos tossed around like its not a cancer-causing material, I then got an ancient look at a knee-high stocking, the likes of which I've not seen live and in person since I bought a bunch of them from Walgreens to make Mandrakes for my son's Harry Potter bday party.
The only part of this ep I remembered from the first time around was the wind machine. Picky picky, I know, but more lazy direction was why they didn't turn the fans way up, cuz their hair does not match the force with which the wind is purportedly keeping them back. But ya know what, it's all worth it, cu look, it finally rained in California, and Jonathan MacGuyvered themselves out of danger. The final shot of Max in his Star of David apron and J&J sick in bed was perfect. And, if they don't want their chicken soup, I do.
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