How much should a father try to steer his offspring's life?
Such was the question for Mike ( Fox) in Thursday's episode of NBC's "The Michael J. Fox Show," with college-dropout son Ian ( Conor Romero) taking his cue from the tale's subtitle. He plans to return to his high school for "Homecoming" ... along with his girlfriend from those days, the unseen Reese, making Mike increasingly resolute that Ian should go back to college.
Ian's get-rich-quick schemes suggest a return to higher education isn't on his radar, his latest being selling clothes at Today's Man. "I'm just worried he's not living up to his potential," Mike laments. Annie ( Betsy Brandt) suggests Ian just might end up "the next Mark Zuckerberg," but Mike remains skeptical.
He has to admit he's impressed upon overhearing Ian drive a hard bargain ("I ought to get you on the phone with Time Warner," opines Mike), only to learn it was for a stretch Hummer to drive Reese to the homecoming. When Ian insists the event is "a rite of passage," Mike reminds him it's "a rite of passage you've been through twice. You passed."
Undeterred, Ian tries to figure out how he'll pick up his newly purchased tuxedo, which is in New Jersey. Mike sees an opportunity and offers to drive him there, secretly intending the trek to become "an impromptu college tour." Indeed, Mike calls Annie from the road to inform her that he and Ian are headed to Cornell University ... Ithaca, N.Y., not exactly being on the way to New Jersey.
Ian realizes it once he finally looks up from his cell phone. "I can't believe you kidnapped me," he tells Mike. "Stop complaining," Mike replies, "before I cut off your ear and send it to Mom."
Eventually, the travelers determine they're lost, underscored by Ian getting no phone signal. He insists on taking over the driving, threatening to get out of the moving vehicle -- and causing a distracted Mike to crash into a deer. Loosely and amusingly referencing a certain series of Michael J. Fox movies, Mike declares, "We've changed the future."
Getting out to examine the animal, the father and son find it's still alive. Ian wants to put it "out of its misery" and hoists a big rock to do so, but Mike stops him. As they disagree on how to proceed, the deer vanishes, prompting Ian to run into the woods after it. All Mike can do is follow.
As the search proceeds, Ian explains he didn't drop out of college because of one class he failed, but because he "wanted to do my own thing." He then targets Mike's endless optimism, noting the early phase of his father's battle with Parkinson's disease "was my childhood. It was scary. It was hard. I'm trying to do my best."
Getting back to their car, Mike tells Ian, "Maybe I didn't realize what you went through as a kid because you handled it so well." Ian responds that it's OK: "I got a lot of sympathy make-outs because of it." And Mike promises not to bother him about college anymore, telling him, "You're your own man."
The takeaway for Mike? "You reach a point with your kids where you can't force them to do what you want. Eventually, they'll find their way back to you. I'm an optimist."
Photo/Video credit: NBC