According to your cable guide, tonight’s episode, called “Charlie in Charge,” is described like so: “Dre relies on pharmaceutical assistance to help him conquer his fear of flying.”
So you should fire your cable guide, because it’s not being honest with you. The episode is really about searching. Searching for college, for belonging, for acceptance, for love, for yourself — and for a woman named Dominique.
But, yes, first things first: The episode does begin with a highly self-medicated (and sweaty) Dre on a plane. Where is Mr. Johnson going, you ask? To none other than his worst nightmare, that most un-Dre of places: Providence, R.I. It’s all for Zoey’s college tour, he explains, though this is largely Bow’s doing: She’s in “nerd overdrive” because they’re visiting her own esteemed alma mater, Brown University.
But since we’re joining the story ~in media res~ (as a snooty Brownie might put it), let’s go back a week to see how we got into coach class in the first place. As usual, the trouble begins at Dre’s work. He confides to his coworkers that he’s not fully on-board with Bow’s plan to give Zoey get a taste of the Ivy League life. What if she turns into a snob?
Mr. Stevens and Jay only confirm his fears by immodestly noting that they went to Yale and Harvard, respectively, and as people who went to Yale and Harvard, they turned out okay, and also they went to Yale and Harvard. In summation: Yale and Harvard.
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Meanwhile, Charlie’s got less academic problems on his hands. He learns (and, as is his nature, shares with everyone) that the love of his life — “the one that got away” (and who got away at the behest of his wife) — is coming to town. Her name is Dominique. We’ll hear more from her later, but just remember: Dominique is coming.
Back at home, Junior tries to curry outrage that the parents are getting a babysitter to watch over the remaining, non-Brown-bound kids. At 14(?!), he believes the job should be his.
Diane wholeheartedly disagrees. How low does she think her older brother ranks on the babysitter power list? “Let’s just get Justin Bieber,” she suggests. “Or his parents!”
Over in the Zoey’s room, Dre tells Bow about his worries about his daughter turning into an Ivy League snob. As a Howard University grad, Dre doesn’t think Zoey needs to go to some expensive New England liberal arts school. In fact, she doesn’t need to go to ANY school that requires air travel! How about she just matriculates into a college in-state in the venerable UC System, easily accessible by train, bus, automobile, or Razor scooter? They get there in Zoey’s new Tesla! That’s right, he’ll buy her a brand new MuskMobile if she agrees to stay in California — that’s the Pat Sajak-esque length Dre is willing to go to avoid entering “a metal bus in the sky.”
Cut to Dre on a plane (and a pharmacy’s worth of drugs). He’s pretty loopy, to say the least, and it turns out he forgot to call the babysitter. So he calls the next worst thing — Charlie — to fix the situation.
And so Charlie takes it upon himself to watch the Johnson kids. But there’s a problem: He suspects Diane is a witch. Also, there’s another problem: Dominique! She has arrived.
As Charlie reveals to the small children he’s taking care of, he’s anxious about the prospect of reuniting with Dominique. She craves an upwardly mobile adult man with a successful life and other things that are the opposite of Charlie. Presented with this predicament, Junior gins up the best idea Nancy Meyers has had all day: How about Dominique comes here and everyone tricks her into thinking that this is actually Charlie’s house and children? That would surely provide foundation of strong, lasting relationship.
NEXT: Enter Amber Rose
Up in Providence, Bow excitedly roams Brown’s idyllic campus, filled with pleasant memories of yesteryear. Not Dre. He’s freezing in this sweater weather! “Every May, when the snow starts to melt, they find the bodies of at least ten frozen students,” he tells Zoey in an unsubtle bid to steer Zoey away from the Eastern seaboard.
Luckily, Bow is able to dispatch Dre toward a nearby calzone station (college!), so now she’s able to embarrass Zoey all by herself. Awesome sauce! Amazeballs! Cringeworthy try-hard millennial hashtags that makes Zoey second-guess everything her mother has said so far!
Back at the Nancy Meyers movie that wasn’t: Something’s Gotta Charlie. After donning the requisite white turtleneck and matching pants, Charlie is ready to receive his dear Dominique — played by none other than Amber Rose. And for a while, the canard works: With white wine in hand, he escorts her around the spacious suburban abode and shows off his picture-that-came-with-the-photo-frame-worthy litter of adorable children (including the mute witch). He’s even able to scrounge up some suspect French.
Charlie biggest weakness, though, is Charlie, and it doesn’t take long for the ruse to fall apart. He’s simply too insecure to go the full Diane Keaton, and he starts to fret. Junior, ever the Meyers devotee, confers with Charlie privately and instructs him to be simply himself. Unfortunately, Dominique is not into himself: Faced with the disappointing truth, she runs off.
Charlie becomes an emotional wreck and locks himself in the bathroom. Now it’s the kids who are babysitting him. He needs to be saved…but by whom? In the end, it’s not Junior — or Jack, who’s been more or less useless all day — but that little witch girl, Diane. She finds Charlie singing “Un-Break My Heart” into the mirror and, in a powerful gesture of empathy, gives him the ultimate confidence-restoring, go-get-’em-girl pep talk. It really is like a scene from a Nancy Meyers movie, if Nancy Meyers movies had black characters.
Thousands of miles away, another problem needs solving. Bow returns to the dorm — without Zoey. She feels as dejected and rejected as ol’ Charlie. “I made her hate Brown,” she says of Zoey. Is Bow just too much of a dork? Would Zoey following in her mom’s footsteps make Bow less of an nerdy outsider in her own family? These are the issues on her mind. Luckily, Dre is able to put his own pride/fear-of-frequent-flying aside to comfort his wife and tell her he loves her for exactly those reasons. So, on the flight home, Dre has a one-on-one with his daughter and tells her she’d be a fool to not at least apply to Brown.
So, where will Zoey decide to continue her education? And what will happen to Charlie and Dominique, the Diane Keaton and Jack Nicholson of our worst nightmares? We’ve yet to see the answer to the first question, and we wish we never saw the answer to the second one.
Dre: I fly with the help of some pharmaceutical courage. Don’t judge.
Mr. Stevens: Well, that’s between you and your colon.
Charlie: That’s a lot of salmon leftover!
Josh: When I was at Harvard, they actually taught us how to work “when I was at Harvard” into any sentence. I made it look easy when I was at Harvard. But it’s harder when you’re not at Harvard — where I was… I went to Harvard.
Charlie: My phone game is Dolemite, but my in-person game is Sinbad.
Charlie: I’ll just have to catch up with her in 2035. By then we’ll all be computers — and that’s when I’ll make my move.
Diane: How do I put this gently… You’re a joke of a man.
Junior: Wow, how would you put it not gently?
Jack: Same way, but with a kick to the balls.
Charlie: Between you and me, is your sister a witch?
Diane: I heard that.
Charlie: That was just a test. I’ve been through this before with witches.
Diane: Look at them. Two jokes of men, bonding.
Charlie: The usual story — she wanted to focus on her lifestyle brand, and I impregnated a Cinnabon coworker.
Junior: If Nancy Meyers rom-coms have taught me…
Charlie: Hold up: It’s Complicated or Something’s Gotta Give?
Junior: Is there one without the other?
Charlie: There is not — continue.
Dre: Look to your left, look to your right. One of these people is going to be in your stomach.
Junior: A white turtleneck and matching pant worked on Diane Keaton, and it will damn well work on him!
Junior: Remember Nancy Meyers’ rule No. 1?
Charlie: Talk about your kitchen renovations a lot.
Junior: Exactly. Start throwing around phrases like “been emailing my architect” and “farmhouse sink.”
Junior: That’s brilliant…then you’re off to Catalina!
Charlie: This isn’t my house, and I don’t have any kids… Oh that’s right, I have one kid. Oh my god, he’s home alone! I should Uber him some wings.
Dominique: I can’t believe you. This is Cinnabon baby all over again!