Up All Night” continued its trend of casting great guest stars (Molly Shannon, Megan Mullally and, coming soon, The Fonz!) this week by bringing Dean Winters in to play Chris’s competitive brother, Casey. Since Will Arnett is especially delightful in “Look at me, baby, I’m a real man” mode, giving Chris a brother who can play that role just as well, while feeding Chris’s insecurities was a great move by the show’s writers.

In addition to sibling rivalry, “Preschool Auction” focused on Reagan’s obsession with getting Amy accepted to Little Nudge Academy, the best adorably named, petting zoo-equipped preschool in town.

In an attempt to ingratiate herself to Little Nudge’s director (an actress I recognized as Rachel’s old boss on “Friends”…the one who handcuffed Chandler to her file cabinet), Reagan agrees to run the school’s charity auction, using her TV biz contacts to bring in top-notch prizes. She also tries to convince her biggest contact – Ava – to act as emcee of the event. When Ava balks at the idea (she’s planning a boat trip with Kevin that day, and just plain doesn’t like auctions), Reagan uses the most powerful tool in her arsenal – Amy’s cuteness – to change Ava’s mind.

Meanwhile, the Brinkleys are hosting a visitor: Chris’s brother, Casey. Since the two have been engaged in a constant battle of one-upsmanship their whole lives, Chris is worried about telling Casey that he quit his job to be a stay-at-home dad. Intimidated that Casey is “killing it” at work, Chris decides to gloss over his life change, letting his bro believe that not only is he still a lawyer, but that he also made partner. Reagan is annoyed by the men’s teenage behavior (odd for a woman who is often very childish and competitive herself), but feels sorry for Casey when she discovers that he was recently fired and is too embarrassed to tell Chris.

Everyone arrives at the charity auction, including Ava, who, although fairly plastered after a day of boating, somehow pulls it together well enough to transform herself into an awesomely fast-talking, jibber-jabbering auctioneer. Chris and Casey’s competitiveness rears its head again, as the two get into bidding wars for guitar lessons with C.C. DeVille and a trip to Australia. Discovering that her husband and brother-in-law are offering up money that neither of them have, Reagan quickly confiscates their bidding paddles and forces them to have a real conversation. The two finally come clean to each other about what’s going on in their lives and have about as heartwarming a moment as two macho bro types possibly can.

While all of this is very cute and entertaining, I have to dock the episode some points for its predictable resolution to the preschool story. Who didn’t know that Reagan would have a change of heart when Amy was finally accepted to Little Nudge? But it gets back some points for not making Reagan give some schmaltzy speech about how the best things in life aren’t always the most expensive or exclusive. It was just that, after the school’s director asked Reagan to bring by her celebrity friends, she decided that she didn’t want to send her kid to a school run by a bunch of “starf*ckers.” It actually seemed a little out of character for Reagan not to revel in her “victory” and puff up with pride that her daughter was getting a head start down that path to the Ivy League, so maybe the writers are trying to soften the character up a bit.

Grade: B+

Random Thoughts:

• I want to live in a world where Dean Winters and Will Arnett really are brothers, and I’m their next-door neighbor.

• The well-placed Allstate/Mayhem commercial provided a nice double dose of Dean.

• Best Quotes:
Reagan: “Way to not split the infinitive! Oh my God, did I just split the infinitive?”

Chris: “Don’t be threatened by my masculinity; it only exists to love and protect.”

Ava: “It’s tough to move a psychedelic houseboat in this market.”

Casey: “The yen is punching the euro in the balls.”
Chris: “Oh man, that’s not good!”