I’m starting to notice something about “Up All Night.” None of the plots are terribly clever, yet it manages to be inoffensive at worst and laugh-out-loud funny at best.  How does that work? Is it great writing, or is it the actors who bring that writing to life? After seeing last night’s episode, I’m still not completely sure. Even though the writers came up with one of this series’ most clichéd plots, there were a lot of really well-written moments and hilarious quotes. And Will Arnett, Christina Applegate, Maya Rudolph and Jason Lee did a fantastic job of bringing the funny, making this one of the series' most enjoyable episodes.

“Day After Valentine’s Day” takes a look at the stupid Hallmark holiday through the eyes of two couples in very different relationship stages: the passionate new lovers (Ava and Kevin) and the built-on-routine spouses (Reagan and Chris). We’ve seen The Brinkleys question their marriage’s excitement level before, and while they may sometimes worry about becoming sexless old fuddy-duddies, they have pretty much made peace with where they are. However, when one of Ava’s talk show guests – a strapping, shirtless Spanish stud named Besos – gives Reagan a lengthy kiss, Reagan is upset to find that her formerly fiercely territorial hubby isn’t even a little bit jealous. Thus begins a little discussion and much doubt on both of their parts about whether spending Valentine’s Day on the couch with predictably average Chinese take-out is ideal or embarrassing.   

In contrast, Ava wants to make a grand romantic gesture for Kevin, so she plans to cook dinner despite not even owning a bowl. Unfortunately, a slightly grumpy Kevin brings his work problems to dinner, and his lack of enthusiasm for Ava’s hard work (if you consider making chili hard work) causes her to flip out. The two have a wicked fight, after which they both storm out and end up at Chris and Reagan’s, where the fighting resumes for just long enough to wake Amy up.

Predictably, Chris and Reagan feel both happy that they’re past that crazy fighting stage and sad that they no longer generate the heat needed for said crazy fighting. Normally, this “oh gee, we’re boring and old” kind of scene would be…well, boring and old, but watching Chris floss his teeth in only a shirt, while propping his leg on the bed (balls blurred, of course) delivers that message in a really comical way. To further drive it home (and help us all empathize with Reagan), Chris agrees to put on shorts, but not before making a gesture slightly less romantic than Ava’s: “Before I pack it all back in…it IS Valentine’s Day.” And although he does end up packing it up, he gets to whip it out again for eight hot minutes of loving, which seems to be just fine with Reagan, especially since she gets to keep her shirt on.

The next day, both Reagan and Chris are inspired to do crazy things for love. While Reagan heads for the tattoo parlor, Chris grabs some spray paint and heads for the highway overpass where he scrawled “Chris loves Reagan” years ago. Unfortunately neither of them can follow through, as Reagan chickens out at the sound of the tattoo needle and Chris, no longer as limber as he once was, trips and slides down the concrete wall.

Meanwhile, Ava agrees to have dinner with ex-flame Julian, who takes her to Bed – a much more ridiculous restaurant concept than the one from “Sex and the City.” As Ava tried to comfortably eat terrible food on a waterbed and engage Julian in conversation about anything other than herself, she realized that this wasn’t for her – the restaurant or the guy.

The couples’ dynamics shift a bit when Ava heads to Kevin’s office for a very grown-up apology, and The Brinkleys have a heated argument spawned by a disagreement over who should get out of the car to use the ATM. In the end, both get to have their big, romantic moment: Ava and Kevin kiss and make up, while Reagan and Chris make out in the rain…to the strains of “Against All Odds,” no less.

Grade: A

Random Thoughts:

• Ava now owns a bowl, spatula and measuring cup. Thanksgiving at her house this year!

• Some of my favorite moments on the show deal with Chris doubting his masculinity because Will Arnett does that “desperate to prove his manhood” bit so well. Therefore, I couldn’t stop grinning when he stopped by Kevin’s construction site and had no idea about anything Kevin was talking about. But really, what are hog nose pliers? How many different kinds of pliers does the world need?

• As a coffee hater, I got the biggest laugh out of Ava’s attempt to make that awful beverage. Crumple up the filter and jam it in the pot…yeah, why not? It’s still gonna taste like river sludge.

• Is Nick Cannon still on this show? Whatever happened to him?

• Best Quotes:
Ava: “You touch my crescent rolls and I will literally punch you in the throat.”

Ava: “I am making this meal on my own. You can shop for me, handle all of the raw meat, clean up everything before and after, but the rest is MY thing.”

Ava: “Kevin, are you enjoying the meal I prepared for you, or should I just go and f**k myself?”

Reagan: “You can only throw food in your own home. We talked about this.”

Chris: “I bet you noticed the spray paint, huh? You’re probably wondering, ‘What’s this mystery guy up to? Something illegal? Is he a tagger? Is he anonymous street artist Banksy?’”

Reagan: “You ever have one of those moments when you leave your body for a second, looking down on yourself and what you see there is super tragic?”