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'Playing House' recap: Totes kewl!

Season 1 | Episode 4 | “Totes Kewl” | Aired May 13, 2014

There is nothing worse than liking the same guy as your best friend. This week on Playing House, Maggie and Emma’s rock-solid friendship is put to the test when Emma goes out on a date with Maggie’s divorce lawyer, the madrigal-singing Yale graduate Gary (Andy Daly, Review). Miscommunication and crossed wires lead Emma to go out with Gary (and have sex with him in the back of Maggie’s car!) without realizing that Maggie is secretly crushing on him.

This week’s cold open features Steve, a super-hot cop, installing a baby car seat in the back of Maggie’s car. The ultimate dream, right? Maggie and Emma ogle at his butt while he leans over to secure the seat until Mark interrupts, insisting he that he is the true expert at installing car seats. Not taking the hint, Mark offers to step in for Steve. Moment: ruined.

real_closeHer run-in with Steve leads Emma to reminisce about a night she spent in Shanghai with a man she refers to as “Shanghai Surprise.” As she describes the penthouse suite, orchid petals and the way he whispered in her ear (“like one of those ’90s boy bands that just talk about what they wanna do to your body”), Emma and Maggie both realize that they miss having a male presence in their lives.

stop_2Enter Gary the divorce lawyer. While Maggie nervously flirts with him about truffles, Emma hits hard with her business training and executive mindset. It’s surprising how quickly Gary is able to switch into hardball mode, urging Emma to let him do his job, which he is very good at and has been doing for years. Emma, who is used to intellectually dominating a room, is impressed by Gary’s professionalism. She even admits to Maggie that he’s the only guy who’s caught her attention since she’s been home. When Gary asks her out on a date, Emma initially worries that it might be weird. But Maggie hides her own feelings, anxiously exclaiming that Emma “has to go” and effectively jump-starting this episode’s central conflict. Emma asks one more time, “Are you sure you’re OK with it?” and Maggie responds, “It’s totally cool! Totes kewl!”

totes_kewl_1But even the most obtuse viewer can tell that things are certainly not totes kewl. That night, when Gary comes to pick Emma up for their date, Maggie is stuck at home in sweatpants, taking shots of the maple syrup Emma’s mom gave her. To make matters worse, Gary takes Emma to see Maggie’s favorite bluegrass group. And the next morning, on their way to the already-emotionally-stressful-enough divorce hearing, Emma confesses that she and Gary had sex in Maggie’s car. Ouch.

After Maggie explodes during the hearing, Emma finally realizes what’s going on. Maggie admits to liking Gary, and Emma asks why she didn’t say anything about it. Then Maggie calls out Emma in a big way: “You should have known,” she says. And based on the extremely close relationship these two have exemplified over the last few episodes, it’s hard to disagree.

kewl_cool_1On one level, it’s disappointing to see such a strong female duo broken down so easily by simply adding a man to the storyline. On another, though, this episode highlights the flaky and oblivious nature of Emma’s personality — the same traits that initially concerned Maggie in the pilot. She may be a smart, motivated (former) executive, but Emma has been working and living in China for a long, long time; she’s certainly not used to spending time fostering her personal relationships. If anything, this episode reaffirms that Emma’s adjustment to small-town life is gonna take a while. In that way, “Totes Kewl” can be viewed as more of a character study of the modern career woman trying to have it all than a slap in the face to my new favorite best friendship on TV.

Luckily, the feud doesn’t last long. Emma, inspired by Maggie, decides to pay a visit to her mom’s house, where she discovers Maggie hanging out and talking about her feelings. Emma realizes that Maggie and her mother have developed a friendship and, feeling betrayed, pulls her own “totes kewl.” Emotions bubble to the surface when Emma discovers a photo of Maggie and her mom on a tandem kayak at the lake she and her mom used to visit together. In the wake of this confrontation, the friends finally work through their problems. Emma ends things with Gary (complaining about his “T-Rex arms”) and admits that she was just looking for a version of her Shanghai Surprise back home.

trex-armsMaggie confesses that she should’ve been more clear about her feelings, and they agree that they need to always be honest with each other from now on. “Please make sure you don’t tell me that something’s totes kewl if it isn’t totes kewl,” Emma says. And just like that, they’re back to goofing around and bonding over syrup. All is right in the world again.

Winning one-liners:

  • “He looks like if Colin Firth and a very, very young Jason Statham had a baby.” — Emma
  • “She’s trying to make me fat. She’s jealous of my neck.” — Emma
  • “What was I supposed to do, kayak alone? That’s not safe! I’d been drinking.” — Emma’s mom
  • “The last time we were at the cabin, good ol’ pee-beard was all up in ya business!” — Maggie

Playing Houserated TV-14, airs Tuesdays at 10/9 C on USA.


TV Families | EW.com
Mark Harris
February 23, 1990 AT 05:00 AM EST

The Bradys are back, with a passel of 90’s hassles. Do they represent the typical American Family? Did they ever? Who does? Stare and compare!

Kind Of Family
TheBradyBunch 1969-74: Blended
The Bradys 1990-: Enormous
Married…With Children 1987-: Postnuclear
Thirtysomething 1987-: Extended
The Flintstones 1960-66: Modern Stone Age

Family Pet
The Brady Bunch: Tiger
The Bradys: Alice
Married…With Children: Buck
Thirtysomething: Grendel
The Flintstones: Dino

Typical Guest Star
The Brady Bunch: Davey Jones
The Bradys: There’s no room
Married…With Children: Sam Kinison
Thirtysomething: Carly Simon
The Flintstones: Ann Margrock

Expression Of Joy
The Brady Bunch: Groovy!
The Bradys: Ritual hugging
Married…With Children: ”Oh, great.”
Thirtysomething: ”Of course I’m happy for you. Really. But what about me? Why does it always have to be about you?
The Flintstones: ”Yabba-dabba doo

Expression Of Rage

The Brady Bunch: ”Hmmm…”
The Bradys: ”If you back away from something you really want, then you’re a quitter!” (the angriest any Brady has ever been)
Married…With Children: ”Aaagh, God, take me from this miserable life!”
Thirtysomething: ”I’m not angry, OK?”
The Flintstones: ”Willllmaaaa!”

Typical Problem
The Brady Bunch: Marcia and her rival both want to be the prom queen.
The Bradys: Bobby gets paralyzed.
Married…With Children: Al doesn’t buy his family Christmas presents.
Thirtysomething: Nancy gets cancer.
The Flintstones: Fred and Barney are staying out too late.

Typical Solution
The Brady Bunch: The prom committee decides to have two queens.
The Bradys: Bobby gets married.
Married…With Children: They hate him.
Thirtysomething: If only we knew…
The Flintstones: Wilma and Betty decide to follow them.

House Style
The Brady Bunch: Conservative but mod, circa ’69
The Bradys: Conservative but mod, circa ’90
Married…With Children: Roach motel
Thirtysomething: Enviable
The Flintstones: Suburban cave

Clothing Style
The Brady Bunch: Early Osmonds
The Bradys: Made in the USA
Married…With Children: Flammable fabrics
Thirtysomething: Eclectic earth tones; nice ties
The Flintstones: One-piece

Most Annoying Character
The Brady Bunch: Alice’s cousin Emma, the substitute housekeeper (too strict)
The Bradys: Marcia’s husband, Wally (chronically unemployable)
Married…With Children: Steve (supercilious)
Thirtysomething: Ellyn (goes through Hope’s drawers, babbles, changes hairstyle every other week, generally mistreats her friends)
The Flintstones: Mr. Slate (bossy)

Attitude Toward Sex
The Brady Bunch: Never heard of it
The Bradys: Omigod — even Cindy does it!
Married…With Children: Peg: Yes. Al: No.
Thirtysomething: They didn’t get all those kids by accident.
The Flintstones: Prehistoric

How Spouses Fight
The Brady Bunch: They don’t.
The Bradys: Infrequently, but it happens
Married…With Children: Tooth and nail
Thirtysomething: They stop talking
The Flintstones: Fred and Barney go bowling while Wilma and Betty max out their charge cards.

How Kids Get Into Trouble
The Brady Bunch: Greg takes a puff of a cigarette.
The Bradys: Carol’s grandson steals her business cards and sticks them in the spokes of Bobby’s wheelchair.
Married…With Children: By committing felonies
Thirtysomething: Ethan plays with a forbidden toy rocket.
The Flintstones: They don’t.

How They’re Punished

The Brady Bunch: ”It’s not what you did, honey — it’s that you couldn’t come to us.”
The Bradys ”Next time, ask.”
Married…With Children: By the authorities
Thirtysomething: It blows up in his face.
The Flintstones: They’re not.

What Family Does For Fun
The Brady Bunch: Takes special three-part vacations to Hawaii and the Grand Canyon
The Bradys: Has flashbacks
Married…With Children: Exchanges insults
Thirtysomething: Talks
The Flintstones: Attends showings of The Monster at the Bedrock Drive-In

Unsolved Mysteries
The Brady Bunch: How exactly did Carol’s first husband and Mike’s first wife die?
The Bradys: What’s with Marcia’s new face and Bobby’s blonde hair
Married…With Children: What kind of hair spray does Peg use?
Thirtysomething: Why did Nancy take Elliot back? What do Gary and Susanna see in each other?
The Flintstones: How does Barney’s shirt stay on if he has no shoulders? Where do Fred and Wilma plug in their TV?

Worst Behavior
The Brady Bunch: The Brady children once made Alice feel under-appreciated.

The Bradys: Marcia’s son Mickey watches Bobby’s car-crash tape for fun.
Married…With Children: The Bundy’s kill their neighbor’s dog.
Thirtysomething: Elliot has an affair and talks about it.
The Flintstones: Characters don’t wear under-clothes.

Best Reason To Watch
The Brady Bunch: This is what life should be.
The Bradys: They’re all grown-ups now!
Married…With Children: Terry Rakolta hates it.
Thirtysomething (Tie) This is your life. This isn’t your life.
The Flintstones: This is what life might have been.

Best Reason Not To Watch
The Brady Bunch: Blurred vision from rerun overdoses.
The Bradys: You’re all grown-ups now.
Married…With Children: She has a point.
Thirtysomething: After a while, you think it’s real.
The Flintstones: The Simpsons

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