Photo: Michael Gibson/FXX

The penultimate episode of season three is full of parties, revelry, and even an awards ceremony, but Josh isn’t having any fun. The affianced Mr. Greenberg isn’t nearly as pumped as his best friend Mike about “butt-blasting” burritos, thick IPAs (I think?), getting blackout drunk twice before midnight, or well, anything. Even though they first bonded over shots of Jager, Josh no longer wants to pound pitchers of cheap beer at a strip club near the airport or engage in any other kind of carousing with Mike. Which raises the question: has Josh outgrown Mike?

I became concerned for the Josh-Mike dynamic in “Horse,” because although Mike eventually got over his resentment of Lucy, he briefly exploited their budding friendship by sharing what Josh had shared with her. Even though Josh blamed Lucy, it was Mike’s immaturity that made him bring attention to Josh’s previous embarrassments. Then there was the lack of concern that Josh showed for giving up his singlehood—the relief he showed, even—in “Pad Thai.” Mike and Josh have been best friends for 10 years, we learn during The Joshies. But where someone like Nikhil risked his life to save Josh’s, Mike’s friendship is made up of a lot of little things that might not carry the same weight now that Josh is about get married.

“Cake” revisits a lot of Mike and Josh’s greatest hits, and sees Eric Andre delivering his best performance to date. The episode puts Mike through his paces, veering from cartoon villainy to pro-athlete hubris—and he owns every bizarre turn. I don’t feel this season sidelined Andre/Mike, really—like Josh (and Mike), it had to make room for Lucy. The writers could have easily written a sulking storyline for Mike, but that would have sold the character and the actor short. Having Josh and Mike question whether or not they’re still right for each other is much more respectful of their bond, and their progress.

Still, I felt a pang watching these two buds in action again; I’ve missed their exchanges, even things like the pre-gaming bit from “Pitbull.” Overall, I think this is the best season of Man Seeking Woman, but watching Mike show up at Josh and Lucy’s rehearsal dinner as a Jack Nicholson-type Joker was one of the series’ best moments so far. In another nod to “Horse,” Mike had a list of Josh’s flaws/embarrassing moments he was prepared to rattle off, including his herpes scare, “wheelchair humor” riffs, and for some reason, ISIS. It’s not that we haven’t seen the same levels of absurdity in Lucy’s fantasies, but there’s something just so delightful and poignant about watching Mike lose it when faced with losing his best friend. And Josh’s exasperated “can I talk to you without your neon beatniks?” was Italian-chef-finger-kissing perfection.

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The best friends weathered a similar storm in the season two premiere; Josh all but dumped Mike for his new girlfriend, which left the latter feeling pretty sore, and rightly so. But one miraculous, toilet jizz moment later, they had a daughter to raise together. They became parents, and their friendship changed. It became stronger, even though it was no longer just the two of them.

Their daughter went off to college, but Lucy’s here to stay. So after a bachelor party where no one really appeared to enjoy themselves—and that resulted in Josh’s Shawshank Redemption-style escape—Mike crashes the rehearsal dinner, where Liz is giving one of the worst toasts ever. Josh doesn’t try hard enough to hang on to their friendship, so Mike retires as his best friend, which leads to a riff on Michael Jordan’s brief retirement from sports that led to a hilariously unsuccessful baseball career. (And a Space Jam joke that made me giggle, even though I’m not a millennial.)

Josh races off to rescue Mike from Chattanooga, where he’s tried to reinvent himself as an exceptionally bad minor league baseball player. That change doesn’t stick, but the new phase of their friendship just might. As Josh points out, they’ve been through this before: first, when they made the switch from drinking copious amounts of beer every night to smoking weed every day. It took some getting used to, but they stuck it out together. So they’ll find a way to keep being best friends even though one of them has made a significant commitment to someone else.

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I’ve debated going into this again, but this really does feel like the end of the series. If I end up being totally wrong, and they find a way to maintain the relationship comedy angle—despite somehow still being titled Man Seeking Woman—I’ll take what I can get. My bigger concern is—and hear me out—that there will be some kind of How I Met Your Mother rug pull at the end. If Lucy isn’t the one, if their relationship doesn’t work out, it’ll be hard not to look at that reversal as a slap in the face. The writers and Katie Findlay have so endeared the character to fans that changing course at the end could diminish everything that came before. But again, maybe I’m wrong.

Stray observations

  • “Cake” was written by Aaron Burdette and directed by Michael Dowse. Kudos, lads.
  • Welcome back to our regular review space! I wanted to highlight the show’s progression, which I felt was perfectly captured in “Dolphin,” which is why I covered the episode in a For Our Consideration post. But we’ll be here in TV Club land for the remainder of the season.
  • About that 10-year streak: if Mike and Josh are in their late 20s, that means they met their freshman year of college, right? So how does Josh know that Mike was terrible at softball in junior high? I’m not sure Mike would ’fess up to that.
  • Liz’s wedding toast was so bad, but also, so perfectly Liz—thorough and articulate.
  • Those team names were also so perfectly minor league: the Mud Dogs, Water Bears, and Sky Grizzlies.
  • In his Best Man acceptance speech, Mike thanks “Terry Stevens, Gina Gordon, Cameron Crowe, and Tom Cruise.” He’d also like you all to donate something to the whales, four of which are killed every year.
  • I’m sorry, but I find it a little hard to believe that a ride to the airport was the greatest act of kindness Tom had shown Josh. He took the guy to Pasta Buongiornio, after all. There’s photographic evidence!
  • Parquet Courts’ “Outside” playing over the end struck a chord.

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