All hail guest/recurring stars. I’ve said again and again how much I enjoy the expanding universe of Raising Hope. New settings and new characters give the show a great sense of verisimilitude and keep the family’s quirks from being played out.
The one drawback (or benefit) of the influx of bit players is the diminution of the character of Sabrina, played snarkily by Shannon Woodward. I have no qualms with the character, or Woodward’s portrayal of her, but you guys probably know by now that I’m not a big fan of Will They Or Won’t They. Less Sabrina = Less Romance = More Comedy.
This episode was a prime example, with the three leads venturing off to explore the episode’s provocative (for network TV) theme: flirting.
Jimmy (a vastly improving Lucas Neff) discovers Burt (Garrett Dillahunt, plus abs) flirting with a client. The family decides to use Burt’s flirting approach for their own, with disastrous consequences.
Jimmy platonically flirts with his boss, Barney, played by the delightful Gregg Binkley. Frank (Todd Giebenhain) and Barney are great characters, and Raising Hope features them just enough to keep them interesting, while not over-exaggerating their eccentricities. Jimmy succeeds, while Lucas Neff succeeds in playing Jimmy as something other than the pitiful, passive plebe. Another testament to the growth of both Jimmy as a character and Neff as an actor.
Jimmy runs into problems, as his flirting loses Sabrina her coveted spot as Barney’s favorite employee. She bests him quite simply, and the episode closes on status quo for the grocery store.
Virginia is also unlucky. After some urging from Sylvia (Tichina Arnold), Virginia decides to flirt with a waiter, played by J.P. Manoux–not Jim Rash, Google searchers. Both happen to be pale, bald white men with effete mannerisms. They are not the same person. Anyway, hijinks ensue, and the waiter falls for Virginia.
Burt, meanwhile, has been finding it hard curbing his natural impulse to flirt. Dillahunt is definitely the breakout star of Raising Hope, and the scene in which Burt tries to recapture his flirting magic is almost painful to watch, with the same kind of awkward humor beloved by fans of The Office. (The show gets a tongue-in-cheek mention in another scene in this episode, in which Barney and Jimmy wear Snuggies and use Shake Weights. How many 2010 pop culture refs were the writers trying to insert in that one scene?)
The show ends on a heartwarming note, as usual, with everyone realizing Burt’s emotional intelligence. Burt hands over the shirtless lawnmower riding reigns to his son, in a final scene that really made me wonder how the two male leads manage to completely not tan while filming in Los Angeles.
Unrelated to the main plot, Cloris Leachman’s Maw Maw has a cute recurring bit, which was a) funny and b) not depressing to watch. Those two factors alone make it a great episode for that character, sadly enough.