With Mindy playing an unusually small part this week, Morgan and Danny set off on a road-trip episode that could very well be called “Two Guys In A Car, Then A House, Then A Bus”, featuring both front-and-back-seat vomit, a golden statue of a famous dead dog and a new character from Danny’s youth.
Picking up on the morning after last week’s episode, where Danny finds out his father has suffered a heart attack, the episode opens with a teary-eyed Danny rolling his suitcase into the kitchen after saying goodbye to Leo. Worried that his son will miss him, he demands to know whether Mindy has memorized the evening prayer, which she duly recites: “Our Father, who art in Heaven. Halloween thy name.”
Realizing her fiancé needs further reassurance, Mindy pulls out a mobile she’s made to hang over Leo’s crib in Danny’s absence. A half-dozen cut-out photos of Danny’s head dangle from the white crossbeams, and I almost expect one of them to start talking, like the baby from the E-Trade commercials. Mindy gazes proudly at her project, adding that she’s made an adult version for herself, “but it’s just pictures of your weiner.” This happy family’s strong foundation of love, trust and porn is something that Danny reinforces when he blames his father for making him miss Leo’s first haircut, and consequently the opportunity to “show him where Vito hides the Playboys.” Mindy, referencing her Dr. Phil calendar, advises him to let go of his resentment toward his father.
When Morgan arrives, Mindy reminds the airplane-phobic Danny that he’s going along because driving across a country where “everyone has guns, and they’re all fat from fried food,” is an activity fraught with peril.
The boys hit the road to the sound of John Denver’s Take Me Home, Country Roads. As they drive through New Jersey, Morgan offers to be the navigator but quickly changes his mind when he realizes how road-sick he gets when he reads in the car. He closes his eyes to nap, and Danny smiles to himself…
… because when Morgan wakes up, they’re outside a motel and Danny is telling him to get out of the car. It turns out that Danny has a mysterious detour to make, and wants to go alone. Immediately suspecting that he’s having an affair, Morgan defends Mindy’s honour with, “You think she can just lose the baby weight like that? We’re in the middle of pie season, Jack!”
Danny denies having an affair, and offers Morgan $500 to get out of the car. Morgan refuses. Considering that this is a man who, last week, said that his favourite kind of food was “scraps,” this is huge. Danny comes around to Morgan’s side of the car and leans over him to unbuckle his seatbelt and force him out. Instead, he ends up sprawled across Morgan’s lap, being spanked loudly.
The next few scenes take us from Delaware to Missouri. In Delaware, Morgan tries to reconnect with Danny by suggesting a visit to the grave of canine celebrity Eddie (the wiry Jack Russell terrier from Frasier), but is met with an increasingly passive-aggressive silent treatment. Ohio sees Morgan trying to read in the car and projectile vomiting onto the windshield and dashboard, followed by a backseat rendition of the same in Indiana.
In Illinois, tormented by Danny’s silence, Morgan lashes out with, “I’m picturing your fiancée getting plowed by some Protestant radiologist with a huge weiner. And then when he’s done with her, he’s gonna take Leo to a Red Sox game.” Wordlessly, Danny takes one hand off the steering wheel and slaps his passenger repeatedly in the chest.
At a Missouri motel, after Danny pointedly leaves Morgan out of an evening prayer that asks for God to keep his loved ones, including “whoever Richie’s dating,” safe, Morgan puts in a word with the man upstairs himself. He asks that Danny’s secret mission go well, because he can tell “it’s weighing on him.” The next day, Danny has a change of heart. He confesses that he just didn’t want his friend to see him cry over his dad and surprises Morgan with a visit to Eddie’s grave.
It’s just a ruse — Danny ditches Morgan at the grave and drives away.
Morgan, riding what is clearly a bicycle stolen from a child, catches up to him in front of an old blue house. When he tries to confront Danny, he’s interrupted by the sudden appearance of a teenaged boy on the porch, who brings the conversation to a halt with, “Dad? Is that you?”
Yup. Apparently, Danny has a secret son named Eric.
It turns out that Danny and Eric’s mom Evelyn met at a Billy Joel concert in 1999, and hooked up a little recklessly (there are at least two direct references to how much Castellano men “hate the feeling of condoms.” Seriously?). Danny and Eric go into the backyard to talk, while Morgan hangs out in the kitchen with Evelyn, who’s clearly rattled by Danny’s sudden appearance.
Out in the yard, Eric (played by Justin Prentice), who is desperate for a father (the tall, athletic teen speaks enviously of his friend Tyler, because “he’s got TWO dads”) has just one simple request for his hitherto absent father: to move to Oklahoma and marry his mother. When it becomes clear that that isn’t going to happen, he takes a swing at Danny.
Meanwhile, Morgan has been interrogating Evelyn about Eric’s suspiciously tall stature and blue eyes, and discovers that Danny isn’t actually the boy’s father. Evelyn is reluctant to break her son’s heart on his 16th birthday, but runs outside with Morgan to help break up the fight and ends up telling Eric and Danny the truth.
Danny storms off and drives away alone. A quick phone call from the unsuspecting Mindy soon turns him around, when he soothes a crying Leo and realizes how important it is to have (and be) a father. Arriving back at Eric’s house moments after Morgan tries to play Dad and just manages to fall down the stairs, Danny swoops in with a great speech about how awesome his ‘son’ Eric is and saves the day.
After the party, Danny leaves Eric with a little Dr.Phil-calendar-inspired wisdom about not resenting his father… and the keys to his car, as a birthday gift. “There’s plenty of room in the backseat,” he says. “You’re lucky you’re not a Castellano, ’cause as your mom will tell you, we don’t like to wear–” Thankfully, Evelyn interrupts, and Eric is not forced to picture that.
The episode ends with Morgan, now faced with a 34-hour bus ride to California, sulking. Danny, on the other hand, is grateful for the realization that this may be his last chance to reconnect with his father. The writers seem to be hinting that he will be away much longer than originally planned, which means that we might be seeing another East Coast-West Coast split show this season. It’s going to be interesting to see what Mindy gets up to when left to her own devices with Leo and Annette. Whatever it is, I’m hoping for more Mindy face time next week!