Synopsis and review of Day Care
A thunderously-disappointing season finale, "Day Care" is a needless, added-on outing that robs the deserving Baby, Part II of that milestone and serves up a half-assed romp which only occasionally elicits a chuckle.
With newborn Jamie (gender still undeclared) taking a financial toll on the family, Hal and Lois cotton onto the idea of enrolling the child in a parochial day care program. The catch is that the family must join the church. Hence, Hal and Lois concoct a muddling scheme to insinuate themselves into the fold. Pastor Roy is happy to accept them, but the day care arrangement does have a compensatory provision of its own: Lois will have to return the favor by babysitting Seth, a fellow churchgoer's six-year-old little shit.
In the meantime, when Pastor Roy comes up short-handed, Hal is enlisted to teach a Bible class. This offers Bryan Cranston the episode's most inspired moment, where he must cluelessly fake his way through a Bible story. A good part of the humor comes, in addition to Cranston's fumblings, with the elemental question of how any adult of Hal's generation could be so unfamiliar with the scenario of Daniel in the lion's den. But Hal's hairbrained inventions conclude with a park ranger stuck in the belly of a boa constrictor--it's no wonder that Mr. Cranston chose this episode, along with the far-superior Malcolm Holds His Tongue, for his Emmy submission this time around.
Lois' misadventures with little Seth come to a head when he raids the make-up counter at the Lucky Aide while she's working, and damned if his his parents don't happen to show up while Lois is scolding the dandied-up child from behind her cash register. And later at home, Lois confides to Hal that she doesn't feel the same maternal connection to Jamie as she had toward all her previous newborns. Hal lovingly reminds her that she's never liked any of their children until they were at least a month or two old, but she always grew to love the tykes, no matter how badly behaved they were. This brings Lois a peace of sorts, especially as they gaze lovingly upon a quietly sleeping Jamie.
Reese subplots are usually strong, but this is the rare exception. Here, he "gets religion." A lot could have been done with the idea, but the "treating Dewey nicely" gag eventually deteriorates into a sepia-toned setpiece with Reese floating into the heavens on a homemade blimp, all the while mangling the lyrics to "Amazing Grace." It's a remarkably drab sequence which accentuates the writers' disrespect towards religion. Especially grating is an obnoxious scene in which Dewey, often the real voice of reason amongst the brothers, delivers a cynical theological speech to his Bible school teacher (played by Nancy Lenehan, who appeared as a different character in Season Two's Therapy). Then there's an especially awkward scene in which Hal cannot bring himself to paint over a graphic depiction of Christ's crucifixion over Jamie's crib, put there by well-meaning church members. In something like South Park, it might generate some beer-induced laughs from liberal arts majors. Here, it's a condescending attempt to ape that kind of cheap humor.
Francis' subplot is amusing if unremarkable. When the Grotto's business is threatened by alien sightings (which direct traffic to competing ranches), Francis attempts to stage attention-getting alien sightings of his own. His antics eventually run afoul of federal agents scouting the area. There's no hint at any notion of location change for Hal and Lois' eldest, though, during this season finale.
And as a season finale, "Day Care" is hopelessly misplaced. Nonetheless, the series remains on-track for a great fifth season, with hopefully more to follow. Chris Masterson opined on the first-season DVD that he'd to see the show last five or seven years. A coming fifth season is safely in the bank. Avoid mistakes like "Day Care" and it might even outlast those projections.