Episode Grade: B-
At this point in the series, there’s a certain amount of trepidation that comes with going into a Gene-and-Linda episode. Namely: when is the shouting going to start? As the two most, let’s say strident characters in the main cast, there’s always a degree of combustibility where these two are concerned, and a-plots involving the two of them have a tendency to devolve into a lot of yelling. This can be tiresome if not handled lightly. When it works (Gene It On, for example), it works, but oftentimes it can come off as vaguely unpleasant, especially in instances where there is an actual issue they need to work through.
Tonight’s episode largely got around this by delaying the two character’s real confrontation until the last few minutes of the episode, but in doing so caused itself two other major issues that ultimately kept this episode from being very satisfying. First, by holding the shouting until the very end, the episode didn’t leave itself enough time to really deal with and resolve the conflict in a satisfying way. Seriously, we went from Gene’s bit about liking ‘Mom’ a lot more than ‘Linda’ (an absolute gut-punch of a line, and one that would be borderline unforgivable between almost any other Mother-Son combo I can think of) to resolution in a matter of moments. If we’re going to address Gene’s dependency on Linda versus her right to be a person apart from just being his mother, we need a little more room to really get into it. To borrow a metaphor from one of tonight’s b-plots, we didn’t get to see the boxing match; we saw a haymaker get thrown, then the fighters shook hands.
My use of “b-plots”, plural, brings me to this episodes other major issue: overstuffing. While the episode my have been structured in an a/b storyline format, what we got in practice was at least four distinct plots (plot-lets?), something the show would struggle to balance even on a better day. Aside from Gene’s trouble with Linda going off on her own, we had Louise and Tina bonding over bad movies, Bob attempting to fill Linda’s shoes with Gene, and Bob’s attempting to teach Louise and Tina to box. The led to the episode feeling especially disjointed, trying to handle too much. If they had pared the episode down to two of these plots. they might have had more room to breathe and the ending might not have felt so compressed.
Structural issues aside, this was still an enjoyable half-hour of TV, with plenty of funny jokes (Louise and Tina in particular had good nights). Ultimately though, I’d have to place it on the low end of average for trying to do a bit too much, leading to not being able to really handle the central conflict with the weight it deserved. It’ll probably improve on rewatch, both for knowing where the shouting will start, and for another reason I’ll touch on below.
Secret Brisket Stack:
- Storefront: A Hose By Any Other Name Garden Supplies
- Exterminator: The Old Man and the Flea
- “Wait, there’s a ‘p’ in Saturday? Ah, this is the ‘d’ in Wednesday all over again.”
- “Ugh, are you guys still watching this? I feel like I’ve failed you.”
- “I think we’re realizing that some of us have a problem with being too nice.” Not to beat a dead horse, since I was apparently in the minority on this, but I felt like this line was way more applicable to last week than this week. That being said, we didn’t really get to see a lot of the Woman Business Owners meetings, something a less cluttered episode could probably have found time for.
- “Is beef chunks what you’re calling Gene now?” No, but I bet if someone says it in earshot, he will demand to be called that.
- As for the other bit that will make this episode easier on rewatch: I was sure, as soon as Teddy got brought into the boxing lesson, that he was going to throw an actual, technically sound boxing punch at Bob. If they had to injure Bob, I’m glad they went the way they did with it. Teddy’s skirted up to the line of thoughtlessness enough lately, we don’t need him injuring Bob.