After The Game came back strong with last week's premiere, it hits the skids with this week's episode, which feels all too familiar and not necessarily in a good way.

Tasha talks to Malik about making easy money by going to J.J. Abrams' son's bar mitzvah (first name check of the new season!), while Derwin tells Melanie that he's landed a lucrative Verizon endorsement, thanks to his new manager Irv. Mel isn't thrilled that he didn't tell her before re-hiring Irv, leading Derwin to give her a spiel that involves him comparing himself to Charlie Sheen (really?). Someone was dropped on his head. Yet when Mel threatens to withhold sex, he agrees to let her "oversee" Irv.

Irv (P.J. Byrne) is his usual pain in the behind self, clashing with Mel from the moment they start talking. In the middle of their argument, Tasha calls Irv threatening to sue him since she initiated the Verizon deal. This means Mel is in the room while Irv, Tasha and a mediator talk things out. Over Irv's warning, Mel takes over the meeting, leading Tasha to call her "little girl" and bury her under call logs and transcripts. The mediator awards Tasha 10 percent of the profits in perpetuity, which makes Derwin pouty. He blurts out that "you can't handle the truth. You're not the CEO, you're not the president, you're not the vice president, you're not the manager. You're just my wife."

As you can expect, those words start another argument in which they bicker over how important she is to his success. It's clear that Melanie is trying to find her place in Derwin's life and that Derwin's success is going to his head just a little. But as we've seen in many previous episodes, one of them apologizes in the next scene and they make up pretty quickly. If you got deja vu I'd forgive you.

Malik's accountant tells him that he has no money after blowing what remained of his expensive contract on his 40 million dollar house. "I'm putting you on a budget," the guy says, which does not go over well, especially when it comes to Malik's sports cars. Yet it's the perfect test to see if Malik really has changed.

Unfortunately, the answer to that is "apparently not," as the last scene in the episode is of him drinking alone, while his mother asks him if he has to be "every stereotype."

I talked last week about how the season premiere gave me thoughts for possibilities for all of the show's characters; unfortunately, this episode doesn't capitalize on any of that potential. Worse, it actually feels like it's going backwards to the same old stuff. We've seen Melanie and Derwin argue and then quickly make up so many times that it has little effect on me anymore. At least if they have to fight again, I'd liked to have seen it matter and not be over so quickly. The idea of Melanie finding her place is a valid one, but it deserved to be explored more. Granted, there's not a lot of time to get that ball rolling in a half-hour sitcom, but maybe the show could have used her last scene to have them talking about other possibilities for her, or maybe showing her taking a step of her own, like looking into career options. Push the storyline forward in some way.

We've seen Malik's problems with excess before, too. Again, the idea presented in the episode fit perfectly with where his character could go, but instead of having him step back and consider that maybe it might be a good thing (even if not right away), we merely saw more of his bluster. There's no reference to how Jenna is doing or the status of his relationship with her, which would have been nice, just to give us an idea of what's going on there. Instead, we got to see more of the old Malik Wright, who already started to wear out his welcome last season. Here's hoping that next week he realizes one doesn't need a topiary of one's mom to feel fulfilled.

The too-familiar storylines for Malik, Derwin and Melanie made the absence of Jason all the more obvious to me. I wonder what's happening there. And one last thing: no matter how angry Tasha is with Melanie, cracking a joke about her inability to have a baby is just a ridiculously low blow, and came across to me as tasteless rather than funny. That's probably the part I'm most concerned with. The heart of this show used to be the friendship between these characters, and in episodes like this, it's not just absent, but they feel downright cruel towards each other, and that's depressing.

Let's hope this was just a detour and that The Game gets back on track next week, because there's so much left out there that this episode didn't even touch.

(c)2012 Brittany Frederick/Digital Airwaves. All rights reserved. No reproduction permitted.