Episode Title: "Conscience"
Writer: David Baldy
Director: Randall Einhorn
After weeks of being controlled and manipulated by Wilfred (Jason Gann), Ryan (Elijah Wood) is stunned when he sees how easily Drew (Chris Klein) browbeats Wilfred into submission during a barbecue with his girlfriend, Jenna (Fiona Gubelmann). Gann always hits his mark when Wilfred acts like a real dog, even when it is reluctant at best. Wilfred's attempts to rebel against Drew's control result in an impromptu wrestling match with Drew… which Wilfred promptly loses. Clearly, Drew is the Alpha Male in Wilfred's life.
Klein is almost unrecognizable from his "American Pie" days and he plays Drew as if he doesn't realize what a huge douche he is. Neither does Jenna fully realize it, but the one thing she hates about Drew is his unrelenting desire to win at everything. And with that, Wilfred and Ryan see a way to separate Jenna from her beau, probably with Ryan to assume his place.
Of course, Ryan is much too nice of a guy to initiate a breakup of Jenna's relationship without prompting from Wilfred. The anthropomorphic dog guilts Ryan into taking action in part by feigning an inability to hump his stuffed giant bear, aptly named Bear. But when Ryan finally does decide to help get rid of his rival, his plan is actually quite brilliant for its simplicity. As a former Ping Pong champion, Ryan intends to beat Drew in front of Jenna and let his inevitable freak out drive her away.
The problem is that Drew turns out to be quite gifted in Ping Pong as well and he beats Ryan as Jenna watches in annoyance. Then Drew proceeds to celebrate his victory in a wildly inappropriate way; making Ryan's plan into an accidental success.
Klein's best scene in the episode comes almost immediately after when he visits Ryan to tell him that Jenna broke up with him and he's leaving town. From Drew's demeanor, it's clear that he really cares for Jenna and that he's sorry that he alienated her. It reveals a more human side of Drew… until he shows Ryan that beneath his slight humility is still a giant jerk who enjoys humiliating the people he defeats. Ryan is briefly horrified at the depths of Drew's psychosis and he seems to realize that Jenna is probably better off without him.
However, Ryan's guilt over breaking them up begins to eat at him and he decides to get them back together. Once again acting as Ryan's talking ID, Wilfred accuses Ryan's conscience of being a "gay lord." Realizing that Wilfred is still manipulating him, Ryan takes matters into his own hands and attempts to discipline Wilfred with a newspaper and become the new Alpha Male. Essentially, Ryan is imitating Drew to get Wilfred to behave.
The surprising thing is that Wilfred meekly accepts the new status quo… until he plants a poisoned brownie for Ryan and does his best supervillain impression while gloating about his misdeed in front of a children's mad scientist play set. As Ryan frantically drives himself to the hospital, Wilfred expresses regret for his actions and for doing something horrible to Ryan's mouth guard. But the poison turns out to be chocolate, which is only poisonous to dogs.
If anything, this episode underscored the idea that "Wilfred" is about Ryan and Wilfred; not Ryan's romantic pursuit of Jenna. Ryan's counterpart in the original Australian series was often competing with Wilfred for his female owner's affection. But by keeping Drew around (at least for now), the American version seems to be finding some other avenues to explore along the way to what will likely be the inevitable Ryan and Jenna hook up. As it is, Wilfred is with Ryan so often that it seems like he's the owner of the dog, not Jenna.
It's still very entertaining, but "Wilfred" is beginning to get repetitive with its formula. Ryan always works out that Wilfred is manipulating him, but he doesn't take any real steps to prevent it from happening time after time. And if Wilfred only exists as a man within Ryan's head, then how did the dog operate the web cam in Jenna's house? You still can't think too hard about this series or else it falls apart. If it wasn't so funny, I'd probably be a lot harder on it for not being consistent with the premise.
I should also mention the episode's denouement; in which Wilfred offers up Bear to Ryan as a sexual substitute to make him feel better about getting Jenna back with Drew. It's just such a silly, surreal moment that it makes the buildup worthwhile. "Wilfred" is still rough in some areas, but it remains a remarkably solid comedy.
Crave Online Rating: 7.5 out of 10.