A review of tonight's "Terriers" coming up just as soon as I play Celine Dion after 10...

"He's going to lose me, and then he's going to be sorry." -Beth
"Yeah, he will." -Hank


"Terriers" has put the Lindus/Montague mess on pause for a while, but I actually found "Ring-a-Ding-Ding" to be one of the strongest episodes yet. The writers keep pushing the character arcs along even as Hank and Britt work a standalone case, and the more we get to know these people, the more we care about them - and the more it hurts when something happens like Katie's slip after karaoke night.

There's a feeling of impending disaster hanging over everything, from Hank's very iffy storage plan for the $100,000 in bearer bonds to Katie going to karaoke without Britt to everything involving the ring case itself. And while the money hasn't yet disappeared (or been ruined by a burst water pipe), everything else that I feared was going to happen did.

It's always a tricky line for shows to walk when they use the characters' jobs to illustrate some problem they're facing in their personal lives. Don't do it at all, and you risk the procedural stuff feeling detached and pointless. Do it too much, and you're beating your viewers over the head with a sledgehammer, yelling, "See? See? See how similar this case is to what our hero is dealing with at home? Are you seeing?"

Here, the missing ring case provided obvious parallels to the stories of Hank and Britt, both of whom spend the episode coping with fear of losing the woman they care about most. With Hank, it happened a long time ago, but being at that engagement party(*), and then having Jason show up at the house Hank used to share with Gretchen, makes the loss unmistakable in the same way that Beth feels after she sees her husband's illegitimate kid. Britt hasn't lost Katie yet, but the karaoke incident means that he just might, and it was a nice twist on where we and Britt expected things to go, since she's the one who made the potentially relationship-killing mistake.

(*) Loved Steph throughout the party scene. So funny.

But things never felt anvilicious for a few reasons. First, as with the Katie thing, there was a lot of zigging when we expected a zag. The case started off on a low-key, comic note, first with Maggie ordering the guys to stop staring at her son's lunch, then with the long and irritating chain of people who had the ring and sold it. Even with Beth (well-played by guest Stacy Edwards) on the verge of losing her battle with cancer, it was a fairly light story (see, for instance, Hank rinsing and drying his hair at the gas station), and then it punched me in the gut(**) with how much everything was hurting her, and how much Hank could empathize as she bawled over the jerk who's mentally already gone.

(**) Note: punching the viewers in the gut is far more acceptable than beating them over the heads. I can't entirely explain why without the help of a medical professional, but I'll say that I'm usually smart enough to recognize parallel storylines without having to be told over and over. Usually.

The Katie thing also killed me because I wouldn't have expected it - again, the trope is that Britt would do something bad and need to beg her forgiveness - and also because of Laura Allen's performance, Angela Kang's writing and Billy Gierhart's direction as we kept going back to the bar and it became clear Katie was going to screw up, and she knew it. (As one final zig-zag, she winds up in the professor's bed, rather than the young hunk's.)

And then everything came together beautifully, and sadly, in the final scene (so well played by Allen and Donal Logue) when Katie went to Hank - who knows a thing or 20 about the terrible things you can do to your loved ones when you drink too much - for advice, and he tells her that she needs to pretend it never happened. This likely won't last - lot of season still to play out - but we see throughout this episode how much of these people's lives involves pretending about your real feelings. Hank has to shut himself down around Gretchen, and in return Jason lies to her about the credit card stunt. Beth's husband was pretending to love her, and she was pretending to be stoic about his infidelities. Etc. You tell a few lies to get through the day, and just hope that the lies don't entirely replace the truth of your life.

As with everything Hank and Britt get involved in, this is going to be a mess. But it's going to be an incredibly entertaining mess.

What did everybody else think?