Since my only real complaint about "Up All Night" has been that Ava's storylines often feel like they're part of a completely different show (a problem that the show has been gradually fixing), I have to give two big thumbs up to this week's episode for how it seamlessly integrates Ava into Chris and Reagan's story. Or maybe it's the other way around. Yes, "First Night Away" is also the first night that Maya Rudolph gets to be the star, while Will Arnett and Christina Applegate stand just on the edge of the spotlight, looking cute and making out a lot. And you know what? I'm surprisingly fine with that!
I've always believed that "Up All Night" is at its best when it stays focused on the Brinkleys' relationship. And while I still feel that Chris and Reagan are the heart of this show, I'm now thinking that an "Ava episode" every now and then probably isn't a bad idea—especially if those episodes help to transform Ava from the always-nutty comic relief to a fully-formed character that viewers can actually care about.
I believe that transformation began in "Birth," in which we saw how deeply Ava was affected by Reagan's own transformation from party girl to wife and mother. One of Ava's biggest fears is that her BFF will outgrow her, so despite her discomfort with all things domestic, it actually makes sense that Ava is so quick to offer her services for the evening when Reagan's babysitter cancels at the last minute. Sure, she's doing Reagan a favor, but she's also jumping at the chance to prove her value and that she can handle how their friendship is "evolving," a word that caused a huge fight between the friends just a few episodes ago.
Ava even realizes that her taste in men needs to evolve, as she finds herself dating yet another douchebag: a nightclub owner named—what else—Julian. (No offense to Julian Lennon or any other Julians out there. I just always picture every Julian as a sleazy cokehead. Maybe it's because I've seen "Less Than Zero" more than once.) Just as Ava's wondering where a media mogul like herself finds "normal" guys, enter guest star Jason Lee as the Brinkleys' nice, flannel-clad single dad neighbor, Kevin. Although Ava initially feels a bit of competition with Kevin due to his #1 placement on Reagan's emergency contact list, she warms to him when he literally helps Amy out of a tight spot: a highchair seat belt fused shut by caked-on food.
Now, the reason that Ava is babysitting Amy in the first place is so Chris and Reagan can have a parents' night off at a fancy hotel. Clearly, neither of them are quite ready to leave Amy with someone else (especially Ava) overnight, but they also haven't had sex in a really loooong time, so they suck up the guilt and try to get down to business—try being the operative word. They can't just go straight to the room and do it because Chris is a sensitive sort who needs to be romanced first. Crashing a Homecoming dance seems to put them in the mood, but then they lose it when one of Amy's little socks turns up (a static-cling stowaway on Reagan's sexy nightie). The whole night seems to be a bust when the couple ends up rushing home, having feared the worst when Ava didn't answer their bedtime check-in call. However, when Chris and Reagan spy Ava and Kevin through the window, the two happily watch as their friends share a first kiss. Standing outside under the stars, Chris and Reagan have a "do-over" of their own first kiss, which is all the motivation they need to get them back to the hotel for a mind-blowing eight hours of uninterrupted sleep. Oh, and some pretty good sex, too.
Hopefully, Jason Lee will stick around because, well, he's wonderful. But also because he has a nice chemistry with Maya Rudolph. Putting her in a relationship with a guy like Kevin is a great first step in Ava's evolution.
• Isn't it weird that the Beastie Boys' "Sabotage" is Chris and Reagan's "song?" I think Reagan must have introduced Chris to it...we all know by now that he has terrible taste in music.
• Chris needs to just accept that he IS a delicious, juicy slab of meat who must be objectified. Often.
• Best quotes:
Ava: "I am a godsend!"
Ava: "How did Oprah meet Stedman?"
Reagan: "No one has that information."
Ava (1st text): Where does Amy usually like to hide?
Ava (2nd text): Never mind, found her! LOL ;)
Chris: "That is not the emoticon I'm feeling right now."