Recap video and review of Go On – Season 1 Episode 14 – Comeback Player of the Year:
Now that Go On has developed a tight group chemistry, and a rhythm to their interactions that feel relatively organic, the series can now go about the task of introducing threats to that formula. “Comeback Player of the Year” is one of the btter episodes of the series, from top to bottom, thanks in large part to how the introduction of this rogue element upsets the balance of the group, creating comic situations that rank among the best the show has produced so far. Simone (Piper Perabo) is a perfect foil to both Ryan (Matthew Perry), who can’t handle not being the center of attention, and Lauren (Laura Benanti), who has difficulty accepting that Simone is a more effective counselor to the group than she is. The Ryan side of this narrative, in particular, is pretty engaging, thanks to what is, for my money, the best scene of the entire series so far. But we’ll get to that in a bit. For right now, it simply suffices to say that “Comeback Player of the Year” is a terrific half-hour of television.
The presence of Simone as a popular former member of the group, who comes bearing handmade gifts for each member of the group, even Ryan, whom she doesn’t even know, presents a threat to the group’s carefully-constructed chemistry, and the show doesn’t bury this theme in the subtext. It’s made overt when Ryan has Terrell Owens on his talk show to discuss team chemistry (Terrell only appears on the show to receive an apology from Ryan for his outburst in the pilot episode, in a funny bit of continuity). Simone calls to confront Ryan on his biases, leading to the two going out for drinks to talk through their problems. This results in what I consider to be the best scene in the show’s oeuvre so far. Ryan and Simone engage in a game of truth-or-dare, which starts out innocently enough, with Ryan revealing that he met Janie through his first job in radio (she was the station manager’s daughter, and initially dated Ryan simply to spite her father), and Simone flirting with their waitress on a dare. But things quickly escalate when Ryan observes that Simone is someone diametrically opposed to the truth, while Simone suggests that there’s a deeper root to Ryan’s problem with her, beyond simply the fact that everyone in the group loves her (hell, she’s the only person to whom Mr. K has ever revealed his real name: Benjamin). Having chosen “truth”, Ryan is forced to reveal that she’s pretty much right on the money. He states that while he tries hard to appear to have it all together, the fact of the matter is that he’s still an emotional wreck from having lost the one person in the world that really meant anything to him. Ever since the group came into his life, he’s found something that almost fills that void. In brief, Ryan tells Simone that the group means the world to him.
It’s one of the most heartfelt scenes of the series, and its impact isn’t lessened by Ryan and Simone’s inevitable hookup, starting with a rooftop kiss in the rain, and ending with the group discovering the couple naked in Anne’s bed. The story of the first half of this season has been very much about Ryan discovering his commitment to the group, forming individual attachments to each member, one-by-one. This overt statement of his attachment to the group feels like the culmination of that storyline, a rewarding moment in a series that hasn’t really made a priority out of adhering to an overarching narrative. In addition, the presence of Simone also helps Lauren to develop in a significant way, eschewing some of her one-dimensional, lightweight attempts at rehabilitating the group, and really focusing on the problems of these people in her charge, each of whom are still negotiating their own difficult feelings. In particular, her comfort and support of Anne (Julie White) shows as much growth in Lauren as it does in Anne, who finally comes to terms with the lingering resentment she has of her deceased partner, whose death could have easily been prevented had she just taken her medication.
In fact, Anne’s story is one of the stronger arcs of the series. This week, she helps Danny (Seth Morris) in his divorce proceedings against his cheating ex-wife, who stands to acquire nearly everything in the settlement. As a favor to Sonia (Sarah Baker), who has a crush on Danny, and out of her own pathological need to win, Anne assumes the role of Danny’s divorce lawyer, even though she’s a prosecuting attorney with no real background in divorce law. But this doesn’t seem to be a problem for her, as she completely steamrolls her opposition (threatening to use Danny’s 1/64th Chinook Indian heritage as ammo in proceedings in front of the jury, which is part of a rambling threat that Julie White absolutely nails). Her need to get Danny more and more in the settlement, out of a sense of justice for Danny, whose spouse was harmfully inconsiderate, gives way to the recognition, in Lauren and in Anne herself, that she is simply transferring her anger at her own late spouse onto Danny’s. The way the group comes together to help her grieve is kind of beautiful, owing to Julie White’s heartfelt, honest performance. This is not to say that there isn’t comedic value in the storyline either, as the group gathers to support Anne as she attempts to spend her first night in the bed she shared with her partner since her death, we see that Fausta (Tonita Castro) has baked a bed-shaped cake to commemorate the occasion: a delicious confection made with breast milk, to the horror of Owen (Tyler James Williams). It’s an easy joke, but the timing and chemistry of the cast give comedic heft to a joke that would have been a groaner in any other circumstance.
There are other minor facets to the episode, such as Mr. K (Brett Gelman) and Steven (John Cho) teaming up with Terrell Owens to get back at Ryan for how he’s wronged each of them. There’s also the return of George (Bill Cobbs), the elderly, blind member of the group, who seems to exist solely to dispense wisdom and witticisms – and totally succeeding in that role. It’s a complete mystery to me why he’s not a regular on the show. He and Tyler James Williams really deserve having more to do, and this is part of the problem of having a cast this big (to say nothing of the guest stars that frequently pass through, either playing a character, as Piper Perabo and Lauren Graham have in recent weeks, or playing themselves, as Terrell Owens and Shaun White have). But these complaints pale in comparison to just how successful this episode is in the grand scheme of things. “Comeback Player of the Year” is an episode that illustrates a new series at its most confident point, having finally found itself at both a comedic and emotional level.