Amy started college in “Put on a Happy Face.” The episode starts with the clichéd college campus montage. Frisbees fly. Guys play hackey-sack. Clubs line the quad. The central character looks around like he or she is in a whole new world. Soon, that character feels out of place because classes are harder, making friends is hard, and it’s an unfamiliar world. I needed a semester to adjust after transferring from a community college to a university, so Amy does represent a true type of college students. Whatever the show, though, one character experiences the harsh new reality of college before returning to what’s comfortable. Who does Joey call in “The Bostonians”? Dawson. Who does Amy find at a midnight showing of Batman Begins? Ephram.
Ephram, too, wants a new identity. He attends a party to start his life as a fun guy, but he ends up drinking soda and bailing for the Batman movie. You are who you are. Bright’s and Hannah’s story involves that party. Bright loves parties. Hannah doesn’t. At the party, Bright was an ass, and Hannah acted like everything was okay, when it wasn’t. She put on that happy face because she doesn’t want to lose Bright. Amy started to re-discover that who she feels best and most comfortable with is Ephram. Those two are their best selves with each other.
Andy’s story is light. He wants to restore his friendship with Nina. They seemed fine in “The Next Step”. Jake’s the problem because he didn’t like Andy trying to break up his relationship, which is fair. Andy is far from the perfect protagonist. He’s not long removed from his affair with the wife of a paralyzed man. The Nina story doesn’t emphasize that morally grey side of his though. It emphasizes the friendship. They were wonderful friends. How do they get back to that? It’s hard. They can’t really go back to the way it was. They’ll find their way to how it will be.
The strongest part of the episode belongs to Rose and Harold. Rose feels happy her marriage feels like a marriage again. Harold admitted to Andy he detached a little during her sickness as a way to protect him in case the worst happened. Andy suggested Harold have a conversation about what he feels with Rose, but Harold declines in the moment because he understands it’s more than that. Their story this season is beyond sex and fading physical passions. It’s about what’s next. They raised their children. What’s next?
Season 4’s first two episodes tied off season three. “Put on a Happy Face” sets up the arcs our favorite characters. They’re all trying to figure out what’s next and who they are. Those questions rarely fade from one’s life. But they will—with each other.
Tom Garrigus wrote the episode. David Paymer directed.