There are a lot of benefits to being The Grinder for Dean Sanderson. He’s rich. He’s famous. People love him. However, the problem is they don’t love him, per se. They love The Grinder, his popular television character. Specifically, women seem to only be interested in sleeping with him, ideally while watching The Grinder make love on his TV show. This is the crux of the issue at the heart of “A Bittersweet Grind (Une Mouture Amer),” a title so cumbersome it shall not be mentioned again in this review.
Dean is sad about his love life, and that’s a problem for everybody involved, because it means having to deal with Dean’s emotional monologues and his lying prostrate on various tables. So Stewart and Deb hatch a plan to find him a woman who’s not just interested in sleeping with The Grinder, if only to get him out of their house. Stewart remembers that he handled the divorce of Dean’s prom date, Gale, and since she’s held up real well, like real well, Stewart figures maybe he can get them together.
His ex-girlfriend is played by the always-enjoyable Christina Applegate, and she and Dean hit it off right away, especially since Dean, too, has held up real well. Like, alarmingly well. Plus, she doesn’t even own a TV! It’s perfect for Dean, and so he gets permission from Stewart to leave “work” and whisk Gale away on a romantic vacation. As the show makes clear, this allows the gang to actually get some work done without Dean intervening. He does eventually return though, and everybody seems happy for his newfound love. Claire is particularly cool about it, but Todd seems more conflicted. He wants Dean to be happy, but it kind of feels like he wants to be the one to make him happy. Todd is a delightful third banana.
Gale also has a son, Toby, so now Dean is a father—at least in his eyes. Still, it’s all going according to plan for Stewart and Debbie. They join Dean and Gale for dinner and a couple of twists unfold. First, we learn that Toby is, in fact, a 23-year-old adult man. That’s pretty funny, even if it is the obvious twist. Then Gale accidentally finishes a quote from The Grinder. The dining room becomes an ersatz court scene, with Dean having Stewart remove a painting to show that it is standing where a TV used to be. Gale has, in fact, seen The Grinder, and so now the relationship must end, as all of Dean’s relationships do, with them having sex while they watch his TV show.
There is also a small B-plot about the double standard Stewart and Deb have when it comes to their kids dating. It ends when Ethan starts making out with his lady, which is not what was expected by his parents. It’s not very interesting, but it ensures nobody will even forget Ethan’s name again, because they say it about a million times.
The last couple of episodes have skewed away from Dean getting involved in court cases, or from court cases being the focus at all. Instead, the show has stepped out into the lives of Dean and Stewart. So far, it has worked. The essence of the show is the same. Dean is ridiculous, Stewart is perplexed and the comedy is found in the juxtaposition thereof. Dean doesn’t need a courtroom to be all pompous and self-absorbed. In fact, when he’s doing it in Stewart and Debbie’s bedroom it takes on another level of inappropriate weirdness. Sure, Stewart’s family is not especially interesting, outside of his brother, but Deb gets a couple of good lines every now and then. The gang down at the law firm is more interesting and amusing, so the show needs to keep them, but The Grinder clearly doesn’t need to consist solely of “Dean acts like a lawyer even though he isn’t.”
This installment (which shall remain nameless) is another very good episode that gives confidence in the show going forward. Lowe and Savage remain excellent, and the supporting characters are getting funnier lines. The dialogue on the series, even in the lesser moments, remains sharp and clever. It’s sort of like The Mindy Project in that way—even when it doesn’t work logistically as a story, it works as a joke delivery system.
Chris Morgan is not the author of THE book on Mystery Science Theater 3000, but he is the author of A book on Mystery Science Theater 3000. He’s also on Twitter.