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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Dean returns to the firm, because of course, in an underwhelming Grinder

Illustration for article titled Dean returns to the firm, because of course, in an underwhelming Grinder
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“Blood Is Thicker Than Justice” felt like a backpedal for The Grinder. In so many ways it retread on previous themes without bringing anything new to the table or looking at those same themes from different angles. The conclusion was foregone from the beginning of the previous episode and while it seems unfair to fault a network sitcom for being predictable, that’s exactly what this episode was, which is disappointing considering how creative and different The Grinder can be. All in all, these episodes accomplished two things: It opened up the possibility of Dean’s dream house as a new plot point, and it gave Dean an excuse to speak in court. But it was long way to get there. Best case scenario, it’s just a mediocre run of episodes. Worst case, the concept is becoming too unwieldy.

After leaving the Sanderson & Yao in “Exodus,” Dean finds out that he’s a part of Roz & Landy for his star power, rather than his legal acumen. He eventually leaves his new home and heads back to Sanderson & Yao into the awaiting arms of his brother. Over the series’ short run, The Grinder has looked at Dean’s privilege as a celebrity, especially in “Little Mitchard No More.” In that episode, Dean is fully aware of the effect he has on people, and how he’s often used for his celebrity status. The same theme has been explored in “A Bittersweet Grind (Une Mouture Amer),” in which he’s burned by someone pretending not be aware of his celebrity, but essentially using him for it anyway. As delusional as Dean is, he’s at least aware of himself as a celebrity (see “Buckingham Malice”), and it’s cheap out for him not to get why Roz and Landy wanted him in the first place. Dean may be blinded by his newfound voice in court, but it still felt like a cop out.

Speaking of court, the Pascal divorce was the first time the Sandersons had worked a traditional trial like that in awhile. I appreciate that the writers aren’t tied to the courtroom as a device, especially because the shows they are parodying aren’t either. But it’s a nice comedic reset all the same, especially in this instance where it allowed Stewart to take part in the same level of delusion that Dean operates on constantly.

I liked Claire and Todd’s storyline better than the A-plot in part because I’m all for giving Natalie Morales something to do other than react to Dean being preposterous, which has made up most of her character. When Todd suggests they be the next office will-they-won’t-they with Dean out of the picture, Claire comes back by completely surprising him. Sure, why not? Let’s do it. Morales and Steven Little have had so little interaction at this point that’s fun to see them work together, especially because Morales is so deadpan and Little is so cartoonish. But Morales finally gets to do something and it’s still based on this joke that was never really that funny to begin with. Claire and Dean are not romantically happening, that’s been made clear, and so has the joke in so many different ways. But Claire, even though she’s fighting back against her label of “Dean’s Crush,” her storyline in “Blood Is Thicker Than Water” works, but she’s still seen (purposefully) as this sexual being. It was so great to see Mary Elizabeth Ellis in “Buckingham Malice” because it added to her character. She wasn’t just playing the mom, as she normally is, but something completely different. Claire hasn’t had that type of episode yet, because in each episode, her one-joke premise is that she’s an object whose main goal is to be sexually desired by someone else. Now that the joke has been portrayed by no just Rob Lowe, but beyond, maybe it’s time to retire it in favor of giving Morales a legit plot line.

Stray observations

  • “First let me say how excited I am to be joining this team. I look forward to not only learning, which one of you is Roz and which one of you is Landy…” We didn’t bring you here to learn our names.” “We already know them.”
  • “It’s either she’s a genius who is way over my head or she is a deranged sociopath who needs to be institutionalized.” “It has to be those two. It can’t be anything else.”
  • “I’m sure that Mrs. Pascal contributed a lot to the household and my client would just like it stated for the record that without her contributions it would not have felt like a home.” “I actually don’t want that on the record, I don’t feel that way.”