The Grinder ended 2015 on a pretty high note, with Dean finally appearing to move on from the fictional The Grinder by killing off his character on-screen during a guest spot. So it’s with raised expectations that “The Olyphant in the Room” kicks off the new year with – and unfortunately, is completely unable to deliver on, with a regressive half hour that is not only inessential to Dean, but just about every character around him.
The most disturbing elements of “The Olyphant in the Room” aren’t the terrible script pacing and lame subject matter, however. How utterly disposable the women of The Grinder became in this week’s episode is extremely disappointing. Through its first nine episodes, The Grinder certainly hadn’t really figured out how to use either Debbie or Claire as characters; outside of Debbie’s presence as a voice of reason to Stewart’s anxiety, and Claire’s existence as an object of desire for Dean, they’ve been nothing but background fodder. Between the two, we’ve really only had one story focusing on their personal or professional lives without Dean or Stewart around, and it was a Debbie story, focused on her inadequacies as being confident and assured around inferior employees (how progressive, right?). In “Olyphant in the Room,” those flaws are taken a step further: The Grinder gives no sense of Claire’s presence at her job or in her own relationship (Dean and Todd keep telling the audience how she’s feeling), while Debbie is completely relegated to nobody status, existing only to help push along the silly, stupid plot of Dean and Stewart being alternately selfish and altruistic.
Claire’s story is especially disappointing: it not only completely undersells her character (not to mention Natalie Morales’ comedic abilities), but it dissolves all tension between Dean and Timothy Olyphant. Their evolving beef has had two interesting angles: Dean forcing himself to let go of who he was (in the face of someone else clearly imitating him, and being lesser in Dean’s shadow) and trying to find himself while he watches a woman he cares about be with (and be attracted to) the man he was. Doesn’t that story sound like it’s chock-full of pathos, the story of a man un-douching himself in the eyes of his brother and loving family? It practically writes itself; and yet, The Grinder has completely undercut it by turning Claire into a damsel in distress, trapped between two gorillas who won’t stop measuring the size of each other’s genitals. Without giving Claire any kind of agency, the triangle The Grinder is trying to build completely falls apart.
Not that the rest of “Olyphant in the Room” provides any sort of support to its central conflicts: not only does the brick-throwing story not make sense, but we never even MEET the client in question they’re fighting over the whole time. Without any sense of the person who is allegedly throwing all these bricks through car windows – not even the silliest, thinnest archetype of a hippie character – there’s literally no stakes to the “investigation” Dean and Stewart go on, while cardboard Neil the Journalist writes a smear piece about Dean – which ultimately makes Dean cry with pride, an ending so pointless, it lets Rob Lowe fake pretend to fake cry for nearly 15 seconds long, its only flailing attempt to fill the hollow core of this thoroughly ineffective half hour.
The more I think about “The Olyphant in the Room,” the more disappointing it gets; considering the amount of exposure it’s going to get during FOX’s new Tuesday line-up (the one it has HEAVILY promoted the last month), it’s not exactly an endearing or engaging episode to bring in new viewers. Perhaps its biggest crime is how it wastes the wordplay in its title; no matter how you look at it, though, “The Olyphant in the Room” is a thoroughly disappointing way for The Grinder to kick off the back 13 of its first season.
- Okay, so the meta openings are clever, and I do enjoy those. But like the rest of this episode, the observations about catching up on episodes feels kind of empty.
- Todd’s concern over his windshield is mildly amusing; how the entire cast continues to dismiss him as a human being, less so.
- “Do the math, and then come back to me with something that doesn’t require me to do math.” There’s one line I laughed at in this episode.
- Timothy has “GRINDER 1” as his license plate… even on The Grinder, would someone actually do that?
[Photo credit: Ray Mickshaw/FOX]
The Grinder Season 1 Episode 10 Review: "The Olyphant in the Room"
The Grinder returns from its winter hiatus with one of its most disappointing episodes of the season.