Season 1 | Episode 5 | “Drumline” | Aired May 20, 2014
Life is all about making mistakes and learning from them. Everyone worries they’ve gone down the wrong path at some point. With her crazy cheating husband and a baby on the way, Maggie’s life is totally insane, and up until now she has always managed to stay calm and brave in the face of trouble. This week, the usually rational and put-together Maggie falls apart, but it’s OK. Because Emma steps up and helps put the pieces back together.
When Maggie’s high school drumline has a reunion performance, Emma encourages her to go and participate, both because Maggie does a killer crab walk, and because C.J. (Jason Mantzoukas), her unrequited teenage crush with “raven black locks and a Rush T-shirt,” will be there. “You only have a few more times to blow it out before this baby comes and ruins your life,” Emma warns before adding, “In a good way!”
While Maggie is warming up her snare-drum skills for her performance, C.J. sneaks up on her in the band room and they share a flirtatious back-and-forth … with their drums. C.J. even comes up behind Maggie to adjust her harness. It’s super-romantic in a really dorky way.
After the performance, all the drummers and their friends head to a local bar to celebrate. It’s there that Emma meets C.J. and his ragtag group of weirdo friends, including Rodney (John Lutz, 30 Rock), who, it turns out, is kind of obsessed with her. When the guys invite them out, Maggie wants to take advantage of the opportunity to live it up a little bit. For once, Emma is more reserved. She was hoping that instead, they could steal a bunch of mini cupcakes and then gone home to watch Gilmore Girls. (I feel you, Emma.)
But Emma eventually gives in, wanting to make the night fun and special for her best friend, who’s struggling with regret about her marriage and anxiety about her baby. C.J. reminds her of her teenage years, and she wants to hold onto that feeling as long as she can. That’s how Maggie and Emma end up chillin’ in C.J.’s van (which has a wolf howling at the moon painted on it) and breaking into the local JCC swimming pool.
Maggie, Emma and the dudes disrobe for some late night skinny-dipping. C.J. notices Maggie’s hesitancy with her baby belly and offers her his infamous Rush T-shirt. Because, you know, in an alternate universe he would’ve kept it anyway. They swim around in the beautiful blue light of the pool while soft acoustic guitar underscores the moment. Then our expectations are foiled — things aren’t quite as romantic as they seem. Spending more time with C.J. just makes him more annoying and less attractive to Maggie, and as Emma gets to know Rodney, he becomes surprisingly endearing. He almost drowns with happiness after Emma compliments a mural he painted, and when she saves him, he confesses that this is the best night of his life. It’s pretty sad, but still kinda cute.
Maggie is finally about to kiss C.J. (out of exasperation, not passion) when the moment is ruined by the sound of cop cars outside. C.J. and his friends flee the scene while Maggie and Emma are left alone in the pool with Rodney. The cops, including Mark, walk in asking for explanations. Rodney attempts to “create a diversion” for Emma by running at an officer, but ends up getting himself Tased. Who says chivalry is dead?
Back at the station, Maggie is having a nervous breakdown in the interrogation room, refusing to sign her release and demanding a phone call and some pizza. Emma steps in to talk some sense into her, and the two best friends/partners in crime (literally) share their most intimate scene of the season so far (yes, more intimate than the boob grab). Maggie confesses that her breakdown isn’t about C.J., but about feeling like all she does is mess up. She wonders how she didn’t see her husband’s weirdness coming and laments making so many “big, huge mistakes.” Emma admits her own regrets, including the way she handled Mark’s proposal — which he hears from the other side of the mirrored wall. Then she puts it all in perspective, telling Maggie, “You would not be the interesting, amazing person that you are if you hadn’t made those mistakes. And you certainly wouldn’t have this little nugget. And guess what? I’m gonna hit you with this truth: You’re gonna be the most amazing mom.”
Lennon Parham and Jessica St. Clair’s chemistry is especially palpable in this scene, as they both hold back tears and lean on each other for support. It’s the show’s most honest confession of the feelings surrounding the sudden changes going on in our protagonists’ lives to date, but they still keep the funny going, riffing about a hypothetical STD caught on a Grecian island. That’s what Playing House excels at: fostering the heart of a truly loving relationship, while still maintaining an undercurrent of humor at all times.
The episode ends with a hilarious send-off for C.J., who strolls off into the horizon with a snare drum strapped to his chest, and a big kiss between Emma and Rodney. Maggie and Emma walk home after their night of adventure, and “Limelight” by Rush plays them off. As long as they have each other, everything’s gonna be all right.
- “I think that man just toasted me with his cocktail wiener.” — Emma
- “How good does it feel to see that someone you were hung up on now looks like an extra from Game of Thrones?” — Emma
- “I’m reading this book by that robot Stephen Hawking …” — C.J.
- “Get outta the pool, Daryl Hannah — everybody’s seen it.” — Maggie
- “Pizza is not a right.” — Cop (I beg to differ.)
- “I can’t even get a dumb guy who looks like Wolfman Jack to kiss me.” — Maggie
Playing House, rated TV-14, airs Tuesdays at 10/9 C on USA.