A review of tonight's "Men of a Certain Age" coming up just as soon as I do a monologue from "Nightmare on Elm Street"...

"I thought it was something different, you know? I thought I was something different." -Terry

I once interviewed David Milch not long after the end of an "NYPD Blue" season in which Sipowicz fell off the wagon, hard, following the murder of his son. I asked Milch why, dramatically speaking, he had Sipowicz get so self-destructive, so quickly, rather than gradually easing himself into it and getting more mileage out of the idea. Milch, who's a recovering addict himself, explained that it doesn't work that way (or never did in his case) - that when you start using/drinking again, you tend to start out at the level you were at the last time you were sober, if not worse

"The Pickup" is Terry's Sipowicz-off-the-wagon moment. He smokes his first joint in months, but that's not the problem so much as a symbol of it. The problem is that he put all this work into growing the hell up - into becoming the kind of man Erin might see as relationship material (though he'd already started before they reconnected) - that when she dismisses him as a fun fling and nothing more, he goes into a bad spiral that ends with Marcus deservedly punching him in the face and quitting the dealership.

These first couple of summer episodes lean so heavily on Scott Bakula, and he's been so strong in them, that it's funny to think back to the show's early days and how long it took the writers to know exactly how to use Terry. The way he portrayed Terry's complete lethargy and self-loathing, and then his spirited attempt to go back to his old ways, was fantastic.(*)

(*) Those scenes were also helped by one of the show's best music cues to date, using the sleepy acoustic opening to "American Woman" to score Terry's depression, and then shifting into the more famous electric guitar riff once he blazes up and decides to seduce the cater waitress.

Joe, meanwhile, seems to be doing pretty well for himself in his post-gambling lifestyle. His golf swing is a mess at the moment (and drives his swing coach to quit on him), but he and Sonia are getting along, and Albert's goofy antics at the high school talent show suggest he's finally learning how to deal with his shakiness. But Joe's friendship with Manfro turns out to be very bad for his addiction, as we all suspected it would, when he decides to fill in for Manfro and take the restaurant guy's bet - his latest weird way of getting back into gambling while still being in denial that he's gambling. This is far worse than the mind bet business from earlier in the season, and I fear what this year's equivalent of Joe leaving Albert in the movie theater is going to be. The itch didn't go away just because he wasn't putting money on things, and now he's just going to scratch harder than ever.

Some other thoughts:

• Owen is largely a supporting player to Terry's story in this one, which is fine. I'd rather the show not try to force an individual story for all three leads every week if two of them have stuff that needs more time and attention. Still, there were some choice Owen moments in there, like his reaction to Terry hitting on the waitress ("Sadly, now, there can be but one outcome") and then his tough but surprisingly calm speech to Terry about the mess he just made with Marcus.

• Given that the guys keep eating at Norm's, it makes sense that Terry would keep running into the Mo Collins character. I thought that was a nice, if sad, little beat where she excuses herself from the party after one too many guests assume she's Erin. It's not that she has any expectations of a relationship with Terry, but at the same time that's gotta be a really lousy left turn for what she assumed would be a fun, uncomplicated night.

• Is it just me, or is Joe putting way too much on Maria's plate at the store right now? Or was there mention in the winter episodes that she got a bump in pay for covering for him while he devoted himself to the golf thing?

• Lots of discussion of men's asses this week. Just sayin'.

What did everybody else think?