Having one party can be a challenge, but the Henry family decides to tackle two in the first episode of the New Year. Mike and Annie each have their respective agendas. Mike is determined to throw a party to celebrate his boss, Harris’, recent Excellence in Journalism award win. Meanwhile, Annie is granted the task of throwing a party for Graham and his friends.
Initially, Mike thinks the only real planning he must do is to secure a limo for Harris’ party, which his boss requests. He quickly learns, however, getting guests to the party is the ultimate struggle. Eventually, he secures one attendee, who only adds to the series’ list of impressive guest stars, Malcolm-Jamal Warner (Russel). There’s just one problem. After realizing Russel isn’t inclined to attend the party to celebrate an award, Mike claims Harris is actually engaged.
Leigh soon realizes she can use the limo to her advantage. Early in the episode, she pleads with Mike to help her make a trip to IKEA, in hopes of transporting some recently purchased items. He refuses, but as always, Leigh doesn’t give up. Through some casual flirting and careful intimidation, she eventually secures the limo ride.
Meanwhile, Annie is nervously watching Graham and his friends. After a mishap at a party she threw when Eve and Ian were younger, she vows to make the occasion as safe as possible. Always having his brother’s best interests at heart, Ian wants Graham’s party to be fun. Once he and Eve realize Annie’s party tactics are unsuccessful, they team-up to make the evening a success. Eve pulls her mother into another room, distracting her, while Ian takes control of the party.
Ian proceeds to create a game for Graham and his friends, “Can You Feel It,” with one purpose. How many hits can you take, with plastic ball bats, while being zipped up in a sleeping bag? Ian is the first guinea pig, constantly being whacked with ball bats, unable to escape. While her brother’s plan isn’t turning out as he expected Eve tries to distract her mother with obscure topics, arguably the funniest part of the episode. Annie keeps hearing noise, and attempts to exit the room. Eve realizes she has to quickly think of something to make her mom stay, inadvertently blurting out she is thinking of having sex.
Their conversation was especially nice for viewers, because in an earlier episode, Annie struggles with the fact that Eve won’t talk to her about personal issues; instead, she always turns to Leigh. While Eve tries to randomly distract Annie, she comes to a realization that she can talk to her mom about sensitive subjects, and get good advice in return. Annie does recognize most of Eve’s discussion wasn’t serious, except for the one accidental admittance.
Away from the home front, Mike struggles to keep the engagement lie going. Once Leigh returns with the limo driver, she saves the day. Just as Mike’s lies starts to unravel, she busts into the restaurant, claiming to be Harris’ fiancé. Ironically, Harris stays the night with Leigh, unbeknownst to anyone. It will be interesting to see if they develop an ongoing relationship throughout the rest of the season. I can only imagine how Mike would react to his boss, dating his sister.
I would argue Mike and Eve were the stars of the episode, because they both learned lessons, through deceit. Mike tells so many lies, many implicating Annie, as he tries to fabricate a seemingly perfect engagement for his boss. He eventually realizes how lucky he is to have a happy marriage, and that’s no bull. Eve, on the other hand, tries so hard to distract her mother with meaningless discussion that actually isn’t pointless, after all. Mike and Eve both strengthen their relationship with Annie, just in different ways. Perhaps Mike sums it up best, saying, “Be grateful they’re there for you.” Through all the dysfunction, there is always that one constant. The Henry family is always there for each other.