In the third week in Animal Practice has mellowed a bit. “Clean-Smelling Pirate” has fewer monkey jokes and more of a substantial sitcom arc than last week, though it hasn’t quite filled out into a show that makes sense. Dr. Coleman still hates people and loves animals—he advises a couple who brings in an injured bird to get out of the way of the flightpath by destroying their home—but he’s less of a stereotype and more of an actual person. I’ll be grateful when the plots that he’s involved in don’t have to do with him proving that he’s human—last week by finding a friend and this one by comforting a child—but “Clean-Smelling Pirate” still has some nice moments and some jokes that hit home.
The comedic plotline that works the best wasn’t a main character’s: It was Dr. Yamamoto’s deep-seated fear of puppets. Dr. Rick, a hand puppet that Doug uses to calm down children, reminds Yamamoto of his phobia. Juanita, skeptical, asks Yamamoto why he developed such a stereotypical fear. “Instead of paying for a babysitter, my father used to drop me off at the Bunraku theater for hours, while ghastly human-sized puppets would do this in my face.” [Mugs, shuffles.] That is pretty terrifying. Juanita finally has Yamamoto overcome his fear through speaking with the puppet on his hand—only to have Rizzo climb into the puppet and turn it, once again, into a horrifying, wavering, haunting puppet. It’s refreshing to see a character who could so easily be turned into an ethnic cliché into something that’s—wel, still clichéd. But pretty funny.
The main action tonight centers on George’s bedside manner with his non-animal clients. A little boy’s beloved dog is going into surgery and George lobbies Dorothy hard for the privilege of hanging out with them—mostly so he can prove her wrong about how terrible he is with children. “You said ‘I hate kids,’” Dorothy reminds George. And, oh yeah, he also left her nephew at Coney Island. When George wins the surgery, he’s faced with some bad news that he has to relay to the kid. Barnaby the dog has failing kidneys, which means that he has about a 30 percent chance of survival. George responds by telling the kid an honest, detailed prognosis of the dog’s chances. The kid responds by hiding under a table. With some stickers and wheedling, George manages to draw him out, and it’s another “awww” moment between him and Dorothy. We get it. They have a thing going on. It would be nice if the show moved past the initial character sketches into a something either more nuanced or less sappy.
Dorothy is also occupied by Angela’s love life, a losing proposition if there ever was one. Angela and the gauze distributor Jeremy have a thing going, and Dorothy encourages Angela to abandon her program of dating cons in order to grab a steak in the cafeteria with Jeremy. Her report to Dorothy post-date isn’t that great. Not awful. But not great. Jeremy’s, on the other hand, is terrible: “She had three beefsteaks, had her way with me in the stairwell, and now she won’t even look me in the eye,” he says.
Dorothy can’t quite figure out the whole friends versus employee thing. It’s shadows of Sam and Diane, but Dorothy hasn’t proven herself to be anywhere as interesting as Diane. She finally convinces Angela that she needs to date dudes who have a little bad and a little good—the “clean-smelling pirate” of titular fame. I’m just hoping for a few more monkey costumes. Is that so much to ask?