“Little Mitchard No More” is a tough episode to judge in terms of the rest of The Grinder because it’s clearly out of place. The episode’s production code says it was supposed to be the third episode, rather than the fourth, and it certainly feels out of place in the timeline of the show. In “The Curious Disappearance Of Mr. Donovan,” Claire was already working cases, and seemed like a fully-fledged part of the team, despite Dean’s insistence that she is a mole (this scene seemed shoved in there for continuity’s sake). But in “Little Mitchard No More,” she’s the new guy again. The tone of this episode allows feels much more in line with the pilot and “A Hero Has Fallen,” than “Mr. Donovan,” which makes sense considering that creators Jarrad Paul and Andrew Mogel wrote the those episodes, while Dominic Dierkes wrote “Mr. Donovan.” Because of how out of order “Little Mitchard No More” feels, it’s hard to think of it as a tree within the forest. Instead, it has to stand on its own to some extent.

This episode felt scattered, and not just because it was out of place in the order of the show, but perhaps it was the first episode that was truly out of the courtroom. We never meet the defendant or the judge, or learn the real details of the case, aside from the fact that it has Grinder counterpart (“We did a big episode on it in season two, ‘Billy Goat’s Gruff.’ Joe Gordon-Levitt came in right before he popped. He played Wendell Gruff, an orphan kid in a wheelchair who gets rolled downstairs.”) First of all, what was Dean Senior doing throughout the episode? Did his maneuvering serve a purpose other than to remind us that he existed?

“Little Mitchard No More” wasn’t so much about Dean finding his true self and learning that lawyering is much more about grunt work than it is about glory (“We didn’t do a lot of paperwork on the show. We normally just did an all nighter montage and skipped through the boring stuff and got right back to the juice”). Instead, “Litlte Mitchard No More” shared considerably more DNA with “A Hero Has Fallen” in that there’s a metaness to the episode: a new character gets introduced, and the old ones are pushed out. Claire joins the office and Todd worries about his place in the office. Dean comes into town and Stewart no longer has an identity that’s not directly attached to his brother. Stewart’s dalliances with the Gerharts (Nat Faxon and Alexie Gilmore) was fine, but it felt like more of B-plot, while it was given A-plot time. I would have rather the episode focused on Todd and his discomfort of getting dominated to cubicle status, but the main characters still need the majority of airtime if only to develop them as much as possible before other supporting characters are thrown into the mix.

What “Little Mitchard No More” revealed about The Grinder, or at least made more concrete, is the warmest I feel toward the show is not when Dean’s character or his celebrity is played for laughs, although I did get a kick out of Lizzie’s basketball game stopping when Dean showed up (although, I’m not sure why Lizzie wanted to play basketball so badly when she so clearly dislikes playing it and is patently terrible at it. “She is truly hideous to watch, it’s a problem,” Dean says). Instead, it’s when the law procedural is what’s played for laughs. “Little Mitchard No More” may have largely avoided a case, but it worked well within the loving parody of the procedural, from the throwing of the Chinese food to pushing papers off the desk to the cliche of how to solve a case (“Connect the dots,” “follow the $$$,” crime of passion”).

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One of the more enjoyable aspects of this episode is the interactions between Dean and Claire, which may have made “Mr. Donovan” that much more appealing. There’s an excellent counterbalance between Rob Lowe’s enthusiasm and Natalie Morales’ constant deadpan. I hope their Will They or Won’t They remains never going to happen, because I certainly enjoy watching Claire shoot down Dean at every turn.

Stray observations

  • TV Law School: Fruit of the poisonous tree — Evidence obtained as a result of an illegal search is inadmissible. Claire would have like expanded on this while writing about illegal search and seizures in her law school’s article.
  • Mitchard!
  • “Is that left turn even on your commute because I’m starting to think that the only honest thing you’ve said this entire time is when you complimented me on my nice body.”

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