Recap and review for Go On – Season 1 Episode 10 – Back, Back, Back…It’s Gone!
Though Go On often deals with grief, it seems that the show, particularly in recent weeks, has more been more concerned with illustrating just how taxing loneliness can be. However trivial the individual problems of each group member might seem, the fact of the matter is that they’re each still working through the pain associated with the losses they’ve suffered, whether it’s the death of a pet, the loss of a spouse, or a heartbreaking infidelity. It’s not exactly novel in its approach, but Go On is a series that purports to be made of weightier stuff than the average sitcom, and the show will be able to continue to differentiate itself by going back to that well, but only as long as there’s enough story there to justify it (and I would hope there would be, or else why did the show even get picked up?). “Back, Back, Back…It’s Gone!” is far from perfect, due to the often-jarring nature of its cast rotations, but by continuing the exploration into loneliness, the episode delivers a tightly-paced narrative that trims much of the fat that keeps the show from realizing its potential. Ultimately, this results in one of the best episodes of the series to date.
Ryan (Matthew Perry) is looking to get back into the dating scene, and he turns to his assistant, Carrie (Allison Miller), for help in getting him prepared to get back out on the market. In a bit of self-awareness that carries throughout the episode, the writers acknowledge that Carrie is a romantic option for Ryan, so they decide to address the issue by having Ryan sarcastically propose that they give it a try, and Carrie nonchalantly shooting him down, in a scene that plays very fast and loosely between the colleagues/friends. This happens again later in the episode with another of Ryan’s romantic possibilities (more on that in a bit), and it’s heartening to see the writers acknowledge that sitcom conventions would naturally force them to consider pairing off the show’s ensemble in romantic couplings, but they also seem to recognize that it’s too early in the show’s lifespan to do this with its major characters. And so they put a pin in the idea, shooting it down for now, while not completely closing the door on coming back to it later (Carrie’s concern for Ryan after he throws out his back in a beach volleyball session felt like more than friendly, to me).
The show uses Ryan’s desire to get back on the dating scene as an opportunity to indulge in yet another sports-related guest star, in this case three-time Olympic Gold medalist Misty May Treanor, who invites Ryan to play. It’s kind of a weird sequence, actually, as Treanor and her fellow beach volleyball players rip on Ryan’s lack of moves, his unfunny jokes, and his terrible volleyball skills in such a way that the whole thing borders on cruel. While there are funny bits, such as Ryan frequently attempting to use Twilight as an in with the women, the sequence fails to ever really get off the ground to the extent that it probably should have. However, the episode gets exponentially better once Ryan throws out his back.
He eventually finds himself at Lauren’s (Laura Benanti) house, lamenting his loneliness, when Lauren tries to encourage him by telling him how smart, successful, and attractive he is. Ryan mistakes this as an indicator of interest. He goes in for the kiss (can’t blame him, she’s gorgeous, after all), which Lauren dodges, both shocked and horrified by Ryan’s advance. She eventually admits to being flattered by Ryan’s interest, in a warm moment for the two, but that’s pretty much it. And I like that. Again, it’s a situation where the writers are tacitly acknowledging that this is an expected, if not anticipated, storyline possibility, and they’re shutting it down for now, without necessarily shutting it down for the future. The plot is good for most of the episode’s laughs, particularly with the return of Lauren’s jerkass boyfriend Wyatt (Hayes MacArthur), a chiropractor who doesn’t see Ryan as a threat. His character works in large part because his personality tells us as much about Lauren (in not only what she looks for in a man, but also what she’s willing to put up with as a partner) as it does about Wyatt.
The storyline culminates in Ryan getting advice from George (Bill Cobbs), of all people, who returns from whatever abyss the writers banished the character to for what feels like the past half-dozen episodes. This is a problem with the way the show is structured, in many respects, as the ensemble rotates at strange, infrequent intervals. Owen (Tyler James Williams) doesn’t appear this week, and sometimes he seems to disappear for weeks on end, while George hasn’t been around in even longer. Yolanda (Suzy Nakamura) hardly felt like a part of the ensemble until only just recently, so infrequently was she featured, and some weeks, we hardly check in with Ryan’s work colleagues/friends at all (though some would argue this is a good thing). It’s often a part of any sitcom to rotate its cast. Not everyone can be featured every single week. But it rarely feels as egregious as it does here, since the ensemble has really grown and gelled over the past few weeks, both in the narrative of the show and for viewers. George has been largely excluded from that process, and that’s an unfortunate, if not troubling, development. The characters treating George as though he actually was a part of their experiences doesn’t make it so for the viewer. Hopefully, George gets integrated into the cast, because he’s one of the stronger actors in the ensemble, and he provides a sense of gravitas that is occasionally lacking from the series as a whole. His plot tonight, in which the group helps him live out his bucket list in celebration of living past his life expectancy, is a real winner. And his closing moments with Ryan work, even though the relationship hasn’t been developed nearly well enough to wear it ever should.
The ancillary thread of the episode follows Danny (Seth Morris), who’s developed a fairly serious crush on Sonia (Sarah Baker). Sonia, however, is too concerned with finding the missing group cat, Puddin’. It’s a sweet little storyline, and I can’t help but approve, in the sense that it gives members of the ensemble a life outside of Ryan and whatever he’s up to. There are also decent laughs to be had from Fausta (Tonita Castro), who has no intention to address her narcissism. She helps Danny in his courtship, which results in Danny getting a big kiss from Sonia at the end of the episode, thanks to Fausta having found Puddin’ and allowing Danny to take credit for it. It’s hard to tell whether the kiss was a one-off thing, or indicative of a burgeoning relationship, but it’s good to see that not everyone, necessarily, is unlucky in love this week.
“Back, Back, Back…It’s Gone!” is a very succinct episode, tightly weaving its themes around a well-paced half-hour. The grief counselling conceit means that Go On is frequently going to be addressing loneliness, and one can only hope it’s done with this level of tact and good humor.