In "Dan Finds Out," surprise surprise, Dan finds out that Caroline is pregnant. This only happens after she predictably tries to hide it from everyone, ends up running into the whole family at her sonogram appointment, and then having poor honest Junior be the first to find out. Caroline continues to hide it while gauging how Dan would react, Dan goes off into a pity party of one about how much his life sucks, which in turn scares off Caroline from telling him. Pretty well-worn territory.
But when Dan does find out, and reacts as badly as sitcom dads are supposed to, it's an unexpectedly believable build to that moment. He has had things pile on him slowly, from stress with a pregnant daughter to difficulty navigating new family territory, and he's emotionally where we'd expect him to be at that point. It's not a mere cartoon of the man's head exploding. It's the real frustration and helplessness that comes when things are completely out of your grasp. Right after Dan finds out, when he gets out of his car and looks at poor bewildered Miguel, there's a flash across his face that betrays everything has left his control. He's now powerless. And he shows it, not as an actor faking emotion but as a person feeling that sensation.
And though the resolution to that story ends in a goofball manner, with men actually working out their feelings by using their fists (in crotch punching no less!), it feels like this is the only way the conflict could sort itself out. It feels right. It's natural, just like the friendship between Lisette and Caroline, or the affection between Molly and Junior. The situations might be staid, but these characters are vibrantly real.
-I somehow absolutely adore Molly. She's--dare I say it--probably one of the best female characters I've ever seen. I don't know how they manage to take a silly blonde girl who had the foolishness to get pregnant and imbue her with such warmth, but well done. She's a character I would typically hate, but she's so fearless and assured, so willing to speak her mind and to admit when she's wrong, that I have to applaud. Well done.
-Dan's hat is dumb. Grown men should not try to wear fedoras. I don't know how he got to wear that without anyone mocking him once. Oversight, dear writers.
-I'm glad they acknowledged how dumb challenging a pro boxer to a fight is, because seriously Dan. That was stupid. You won the insurance fight (a ridiculous argument if ever there was one), but do not try to take on a man who owns a gym when you haven't worked out in years.