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'Men of a Certain Age' recap: Go hug it out or something

January 3, 2011 | 11:00 pm


There's tension at Thoreau Chevrolet. Once again the services guys, headed by Jesse (Patrick Gallagher) are at odds with the sales team. The mechanics think the salesmen are prima donnas and the salesmen think the service guys are there to, well, serve them.

Looking to bring peace, Owen (Andre Braugher) calls a meeting and tries to deliver a Knute Rockne-like speech. Everyone else out there -- rival dealers, soccer moms, the government, Toyota -- are enemies but Thoreau Chevrolet is family, he says. Sure, families have problems, but "underneath it all there's a whole lot of love."

He's met with blank stares until one of the service guys asks if they can go now.

"Just go hug it out or something," Owen tells his team.

The scene is both hilarious and telling. Owen wants people to give a damn for something other than themselves and he's met with apathy. There is no more us against them. It's every man for themselves.

Recognizing that the service guys feel like second-class citizens, Owen decides to open a body shop on the premises. He's happy. Jesse's happy. The sales guys are happy. But then, as usual, the dark cloud that is Owen's father shows up to kill the mood.

Turns out that Owen Sr. has not been completely truthful about the financial health of the dealership. A few years ago, he bought some land in Glendale to open a new dealership. The economy went south and the company got into a little trouble with the IRS and can't expand or make any additions until the government is paid back. Owen is devastated and feels betrayed by his father. His heart is broken when he has to suck it up and tell Jesse he's reneging on the plans without telling him why because he wants to protect his father's name and not worry his employees.

One employee Owen doesn't have to worry about is Terry (Scott Bakula). Starting to hit his stride as a car salesman, Terry has some cash in his hands and is excited about going to visit his brother to show that he's finally becoming an adult.

But Terry has a hard time being at ease with his kid brother Mark. He hasn't seen him in more than a year and like all aging siblings there often comes a time where keeping family relationships alive require work, not just blood. Mark is not necessarily buying that Terry has given up his dreams of stardom or his irresponsible ways. Terry gets annoyed when his efforts to pay back a loan are rebuffed.

Terry continues to be the most interesting character to watch. On the surface, he's just a laid-back and aging Lothario. A frustrated actor who uses anyone around him to get what he needs to get through the moment.

Underneath he's a philosopher and literature lover who can quote Camus. He has a temper that he struggles to rein in, and the last few years have brought him to a realization that he needs to change his ways or he'll end up lost.

While Owen deals with his work family and Terry tries to reconnect with his real family, Joe (Ray Romano) is forced into the role of a brother of sorts to his bookie Manfro (the wonderful Jon Manfrellotti), whom he learns is struggling with cancer. As much as Joe feels for Manfro, he is nervous about seeing his bookie so soon after trying to kick gambling. "I can't be around it," he tells Manfro's mother, who came to Joe's party supply store to persuade him to visit her son.

Joe, of course, does the right thing and visits Manfro, who is his usual twisted self. They discuss the odds of surviving cancer without getting the chemo. It is one of the more painful scenes in the show's brief history, which is what makes it so watchable. We've all visited people we don't really want to see because it is the right thing to do. And usually, after doing it we don't feel any better about it.

Family, in all its bizarre forms, was the theme running through this episode. We have work family. We have real family. We have awkward family. We don't get to pick them. They pick us. Or, to borrow a line from one of my favorite movies, "A family is like a gun. You point it in the wrong direction and you could kill someone."

-- Joe Flint

 Photo: Joe (Ray Romano), left, and Manfro (Jon Manfrellotti) bond over cancer and sports. Credit: TNT