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'Men of a Certain Age' recap: Little weirdo weekend

January 10, 2011 | 11:00 pm

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There's nothing like bonding over a colonoscopy.

Since the second season of TNT's "Men of a Certain Age" started last month, the show's three lead characters — Joe (Ray Romano), Terry (Scott Bakula) and Owen (Andre Braugher) — have not had much quality time on screen together. Sure, they get bites to eat at Norm's every episode to mull over their dilemmas, but that's generally been about it.

So perhaps a getaway weekend for the trio was long overdue. And since these three are all approaching 50, this road trip was not exactly their version of "The Hangover." Instead, they are off to get probed. Terry has talked Joe and Owen into coming with him to Palm Springs for rest, relaxation and a colonoscopy. The plan is to drive there, hit the links, fast for a night, get the exam and then celebrate with a feast of red meat.

"I'm in for your little weirdo weekend," Joe tells Terry, adding that they can be the "Three Muskerears."

Each has his own motivation for wanting to get away for the weekend. Joe has been struggling on the golf course for a while and figures a change of scenery might do him good. He keep losing the mind bets he makes with himself. Terry is enjoying himself with Erin but is torn between going all in or keeping her at arm's length, which is what he usually does in relationships. Owen, meanwhile, is still reeling at the revelation that the auto dealership he is now running is almost half a million dollars in the hole.

On the way to Palm Springs, there is the usual debate over music. Joe is blasting the soundtrack to "Hair," much to Owen's chagrin. Owen is a jazz and funk fan. Terry then annoys Joe by suggesting a side trip to say hello to Joe's father. The combination of going to get a colonoscopy, which brings up its own feelings of mortality, and seeing his grumpy father does not sound like fun to Joe, but Terry guilts him into it.

Unfortunately, Joe's first instincts were right. His father (played by Robert Loggia) is not exactly Mr. Warmth, and his idea of showing Joe affection is practicing the judo punches he's learned on him and letting Owen know that he can use the bathroom for urinating but nothing else. Needless to say, the three are soon back on the road.

Golf turns out to be anything but relaxing for these three. Joe lets the visit with his father throw him off his golf game and, to make matters worse for the still reforming gambler, there is a casino in the hotel. Terry, who is trying to act all casual about Erin by flirting with a woman who joins the boys on the golf course, is actually getting agitated that his text messages are not being returned. As for Owen, as much as he is trying to forget his work woes, he can't quite escape. Marcus, his top salesman, calls to whine about his business cards, and that gets him all out of sorts.

After golf is done, the three retreat to their rooms and each drinks a laxative to help him clean house before the exams. However, there is a waiting period before it kicks in, and they get antsy. Joe, having lost a mind bet with himself that he wouldn't watch TV if he shot over a 76, hustles down to Owen's room to watch TV because if he happens to be in a room where a TV is on, that is OK.

Alas, Owen, having drunk the magic potion as well, isn't too keen on having Joe around in case things start to percolate. Furthermore, he wants a quiet night watching "Quincy," and Joe wants to watch golf. Terry then pops in, and Owen, mad that his plans for a peaceful evening have been shattered, heads down to the casino. Terry then drags Joe down to the bar, but as soon as they get there he starts to eye all the women.

Owen, appropriately enough, hits the craps table and gets on a hot streak. But soon enough he's not only playing craps, he's playing "Beat the Clock" too as the laxative starts doing its job. It's also got Terry's and Joe's stomachs churning, and soon enough all three are racing back to their rooms.

The next day all three get good results on their exams, but the celebratory dinner goes up in smoke when Joe declares he can't join them because he lost another bet with himself on the golf course. Both Terry and Owen try to convince him to no avail to scrap the bet. Owen in particular is incensed with Joe, while Terry is caught in the middle.

Owen and Terry head into the restaurant to learn that, because of Joe's pulling out, they will have to wait for a table to accommodate their now smaller party. Owen heads to the bar while Terry goes outside to try to reach Erin. Owen, who hasn't eaten in over a day, throws down the scotch and pretty soon is feeling no pain. He's also trying to save a seat for Terry at the bar, which is annoying a fellow customer.

Before long, Owen gets into it with the much bigger customer over the chair. Terry comes back to the bar and joins in, but the man is bigger than both of them. Joe, apparently coming in to apologize, also gets into it and has some success with the judo punches his father had used on him. It was a hilarious scene, yet also a touching testament to the loyalty and, yes, love these three have for each other. There was no second-guessing decisions or running for help. They just all jumped on their much bigger opponent. 

Unfortunately, their camaraderie also gets them tossed from the restaurant. They end up having their post-colonoscopy meal at a roadside taco stand. A slightly ashamed Owen admits that he started the brawl and perhaps was taking the anger he has toward his father out on the man who wanted the seat at the bar.

Joe apologizes for letting his mind bets get the best of him. He acknowledges that, even though there is no money involved, the high is the same as real gambling. Owen tells him he needs to go back to Gamblers Anonymous.

Of the three leads, it was Braugher's performance that stood out. Between his blowup with Joe outside the steakhouse and the brawl at the bar, it was like he was channeling the rage of Frank Pembleton, his old character from the underappreciated NBC drama "Homicide: Life on the Streets."

Because we seldom get to see the characters interacting with each other for an extended period of time, this episode is memorable. It's a challenge for the writers to have to create separate lives for the friends and at the same time bring them together to remind us of the terrific chemistry they have. The colonoscopy getaway was an inspired treat.

— Joe Flint

Photo: Tee time for Owen (Andre Braugher), Joe (Ray Romano) and Terry (Scott Bakula). Credit: TNT.

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