Episode Title: "Honesty"
Writer: Jason Gann
Director: Randall Einhorn
For a few brief moments, this week’s “Wilfred” made it seem like the previously unseen Newman family patriarch was finally going to make an appearance. As a wrap up to the last lingering threads of his last job, Ryan (Elijah Wood) learns that his friend and co-worker, Kevin (Rob Riggle) was arrested for stealing company secrets… which forced his company to go under and led to the suicide of their boss, Jeremy (Steve Weber).
Jenna (Fiona Gubelmann) — Ryan’s attractive neighbor and the real owner of Wilfred (Jason Gann) — asks Ryan to help set up an interview with Kevin through his attorney… Hank Newman; who is also Ryan’s estranged father.
Of course, Ryan would do anything for Jenna… except talk to his father. Ryan is also feeling extremely guilty that Jenna is considering giving up her dream to be a TV journalist because her drug induced on-air meltdown has turned her into a joke. And Jenna’s problems started when she unwittingly ate a piece of pot candy from Ryan’s house.
Fortunately (or unfortunately), Wilfred has a solution. The anthropomorphized dog shows Ryan a hidden chamber in the basement that is filled with cats whom Wilfred has been kidnapping. Sensing a good substitute story for Jenna, Ryan sets her on the trail of the missing felines with a potential happy ending for both the cats and Jenna. Then Wilfred ups the stakes by anonymously sending Jenna an e-mail promising a video from the sick person who has been killing the neighborhood cats.
Unwilling to humiliate Jenna any further, Ryan dons an outlandish outfit while attempting to film Wilfred’s ridiculous cat-snuff footage… and keep the cats alive. Wood was pretty amusing when he used his fake killer voice while dressed in that costume. However, Wilfred’s subsequent director tantrum wasn’t as funny and it seemed to suck up a lot of screentime.
Very few of Ryan’s plans have ever worked on “Wilfred,” thanks to the title character. And this plan is no exception. After Ryan puts something usable together for Jenna, Wilfred trumps him with an anti-Cat video that renders Jenna a laughing stock once again. Until Jenna finally gives up her television aspirations.
All along, Wilfred urges Ryan to tell Jenna the truth about the pot candy… and as a last ditch effort, he does. Ryan even mentions blackmailing his sister and swapping out the urine for the drug test. About the only thing Ryan holds back is that he encouraged Wilfred to jump in front of the drug tester’s car to give him time to make the urine switch.
That was a jaw-dropping moment for the series, and Jenna reacted as any sane human being would. She was horrified and she rejected Ryan’s attempts to apologize. It was also such a game changer that the series almost immediately hit the reset button.
Against all believability, Jenna comes to forgive Ryan and she apologizes to him! Jenna says that she knew Ryan had a crush on her from the start and that she used him to watch Wilfred at all hours and even got him to perform her menial tasks like picking up her laundry.
That may have been true, but Jenna’s admission didn’t feel earned or genuine. Instead, it was the show’s “Get out of jail free card.” I understand why Gann (as the writer of this episode) felt the need to get back to the status quo. If Jenna hated Ryan, she probably wouldn’t want him watching her dog or involved with her life.
But there’s no getting around what a colossal cheat that was to get Ryan off the hook for his mistakes. And it robbed the entire episode of the resonance that it had built up. It’s a shame, because “Wilfred” had been on a hot streak for the last couple of episodes. The relationships between Ryan and his mom and between Ryan and Amanda at least had some measure of heart and reality. With this latest twist, Ryan and Jenna’s relationship has gone straight to farce without any meaning or depth.
There’s been some debate online as to whether Jenna’s forgiveness weakens her as a character. I say… “What character?” Jenna has only existed as an outlet for Ryan’s unrequited love and as a convenient way to introduce Wilfred into the plot of any episode. This felt like a missed opportunity to turn Jenna into a more compelling character on her own.
At least Wilfred himself had a few exceptionally funny moments, including his reluctant love for his kidnapped cats and his racism towards the neighborhood dobermans. The ending of the episode gets a little dark when Wilfred and Ryan release the cats… only to watch them fall prey to a pack of vicious dobermans. That worked, but a better joke may have been left on the table. Imagine what would have happened if Jenna had realized that Ryan was the cat-napper as well. That’s one of the few things he didn’t admit to.
As an episode of “Wilfred,” ”Honesty” was perfectly serviceable and even hilarious at times. But the level of emotional dishonesty in the reconciliation between Jenna and Ryan is hard to ignore.