'Reaper' gets in the ring

Bretharrison Spoiler alert: no unnecessarily scantily clad stepsister this week! Breathe a sigh of relief, "Reaper" fans. Instead, this week's episode "The Sweet Science" spent equal time on Sam's complicated relationship with an ex-boxer and Ben's even more complicated relationship with his demon girlfriend. Interspersed with these two stories, Andi learned that climbing the corporate ladder is hard with Sock constantly pulling her down. Beware: this recap floats like a butterfly and stings like a bee.

Let's check out each individual storyline, one-by-one.

Sucker punch

Each week, Sam finds himself magically whisked away from his normal life at the whim of the devil. This week might have been the funniest instance of this yet, as we learn the Devil likes to lead Alcoholics Anonymous meeting. And Sexaholics meetings. And, I'm sure, in his spare time he goes to preschool classes and tells the kids it's OK to run with scissors. His escaped soul? An ex-boxer, Michael "Red" Sabatino. The vessel? Boxing gloves. A literal and dangerous vessel, as it requires Sam to land one good punch in order to knock this demon down to hell.

As his occasional wont, Sam actually begrudgingly befriends Red in between severe beat-downs in the ring. Once upon a time, Red was a promising young boxer, but took easy money from the Devil in order to throw a fight. Now, his singular focus is attaining the world title he never could. He asks Sam for time in order to complete his goal, at which point he'll go to hell willingly. Naturally, that time frame doesn't work for the Devil, he promptly stages an impromptu fight to the death. Red ends up taking a dive to save Sam's life, atoning for the mistake in his past life.

Nothing too out of the ordinary in this soul-of-the-week, although it did provide an opportunity for Sam to throw the Devil a slight curve ball by the end. Satan's pride, coupled with his pessimistic view of human nature prevents him from thinking he won't always win.  He viewed the Sam/Red fight as a win-win scenario, but while Red returned to hell, he did so of his own volition. A small defeat for the devil, but a defeat nonetheless. Moreover, Sam's time with Red allowed his friend a chance at happiness in an unlikely place.

Dating can be hell

Poor Ben. He wants so badly to believe his girlfriend doesn't want to kill his best friend. And yet, she lunges at Sam with a knife. And nearly runs over him with her car. And while some girls like red meat, Nina likes the whole cow. It's problematic at best. It's like dating a morning person if you yourself are a not a morning person, only with slightly less violence.

At first, Ben wants to keep her identity secret from his friends. Course, saying things like, "I'm from the Kansas," is like holding a big sign above your head that says, "I normally sport a prehensile tail!" Luckily, the show didn't drag this plotline over the course of an entire season, choosing to concentrate the lies and awkwardness over one episode. Sure, she cries acid and her eyes turn yellow when she gets upset, but Ben and her are still a couple by episode's end. Sam's experience with Red showed him that demons are people, too. Or, something like that. It's unclear. Just like Nina's real motives.

The life and death of Less Nessman

Looks like Sock was a fan of WRKP WKRP, given the name of his salary-collecting alter ego Less Nessman. That's my kinda stimulus package, people. However, newly installed store manager Andi quickly discovers Sock's shady salary grab, and tries to put a stop to it.

She quickly discovers something she should have known already: dealing with Sock through normal methods doesn't work. Asking him kindly to "retire" Less was met with an anonymous call to corporate headquarters accusing Andi of sexual harassment. So what does Andi to in retaliation? She uses a small staff of corporate grief counselors to help employees deal with the "death" of Nessman. Not only did Andi kill Sock's second source of income, she killed it as it sat on the toilet. Yet another check in the "cool stuff Andi's done in Season 2" column, a column that's growing at a nice clip, I must say.

Other thoughts about this week's episode:

  1. I enjoy the occasional soul that's not completely eeeeeeeevil. And when it comes in the form of a poor man's Jeremy Sisto, all the better.
  2. Loved Nina's hellrock present to Ben that came with an insanely long set of warnings. And yet, there were still far fewer preconditions than had she given him Happy Fun Ball.
  3. I suppose we can be glad that the St. Patrick's Day episode didn't feature Sam chasing around a bloodthirsty leprechaun. The Irish wake for Les was a nice touch, however, and showed just how far Sock will go for a free handout. He's like the AIG of the "Reaper" universe.
  4. Best quotes of tonight: Ben: "Tastes like pennies." Sock: "Since when do you need more than one pair of pants? Who are you, Jude Law?" Nina: "I have never had cooked cow before, it's soooo good!" Sock: "You got the punching power of a drunken baby." Sock: "No, I won't pray with you."

In the end, the absence of flexible stepsister and sharper focus on the lives of the three friends yielded a stronger episode than last week's minor letdown. What's still lacking is the balance between week-to-week soul catching and overarching mythology. With no Alan around, and Sam's parents still AWOL, we didn't get the sense of these characters moving towards anything in particular. They moved past this week's maladies, but towards where are they going? Until the show starts answering that question, "Reaper" will never again reach the epic heights it had at the end of the first season.

Are you happy with the choices Sam and Ben made this week? Is Andi's promotion a good thing or just a way to give her something to do? And if Sock's sister never returns, will you shed a single acid-filled tear?

Ryan indulges his inner George Foreman over at Boob Tube Dude.