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'Playing House' recap: The 'labor' of love

Season 1 | Episode 8 | “37 Weeks” | Aired June 10, 2014

Any story, comedy or drama, becomes more compelling with higher stakes. This week, the the two biggest running tensions in Playing House — Emma and Mark’s complicated relationship and Maggie’s pregnancy — both come to a head, and it makes for an oh-so-satisfying half-hour of television.

Maggie is officially 37 weeks pregnant, meaning she could technically go into labor at any time. This info sends her spiraling into a tornado of home improvement. Everything has to be perfect for when the baby shows up! Emma steps in to calm Maggie down and organize a task force (made up of Mark, her mom, Mr. Nanjiani and other random townspeople) to get the house baby-ready. While Maggie and Mr. Nanjiani set up the baby monitor, Emma and Mark are on kitchen-painting duty. Sticking the two of them together in a room immediately creates a ticking time bomb of emotion. When Emma overhears Mark being super-cheesy on the phone with his wife Tina (aka Birdbones), she of course taunts him. They get in a fight, get distracted from their work and end up accidentally getting paint all over Maggie, who then tells them that to make it up to her, they need to paint the entire house.

9hd5zRefocused and a little bit calmer, Emma reflects on how she has been acting, and on how she treated Mark when he proposed to her. They try to talk out their issues and Mark reveals some crucial information: He would’ve gone with Emma to China — all she had to do was ask. Emma is shocked: She had assumed he would never leave his hometown. But his plans for the future weren’t centered around staying in Pinebrook; they were centered around staying with her. At that, Emma finally apologizes, but Mark doesn’t let it go so easily. He takes the opportunity to flirtatiously coax Emma into repeating her apology over and over again, inching closer each time she says “sorry” until … they’re almost kissing?! (Side note: Anyone else feel really guilty for totally swooning over this moment? Poor Birdbones …)

But they’re stopped short by the magic of sitcom timing. In walks Tina, who just arrived to help out around the house. Emma and Mark jump apart and drop their conversation, but the China revelation is only the beginning of Mark’s list of secrets: He also neglected to tell Tina that he had proposed to Emma and been rejected. Not knowing to keep her mouth shut, Maggie spills the beans about the Mark/Emma proposal to Tina, and the love triangle ends up in a kitchen confrontation. Cracking under the stress of the situation, Emma makes matters even worse by also revealing to Tina that Mark would’ve gone to China with her.

9hd5aTina is heartbroken, Emma is confused and shots are fired. The argument escalates to name-calling, and Emma’s secret nickname from high school is revealed. Tina was Birdbones, Maggie was String Bean and Emma was Monster Mash. No, not because she was a heartless monster who mashed people’s emotions, but because of a terrible tap dance routine she performed to the song “Monster Mash” at her eighth grade talent show. Just when you think it can’t get anymore chaotic, Maggie enters with the kicker: She also hooked up with Mark! Post-Emma and pre-Tina, they made out on a waterbed (jeans on). Emma is immediately upset, but Tina doesn’t understand why. Why should Emma care about Maggie and Mark hooking up if she was over him when she left the country? (Good Q, Birdbones.)

Bp0Mu-rCUAETsv3Before Emma can answer Tina’s climactic question, Maggie goes into labor. Emma thinks it’s an act at first, fabricated to get her out of explaining her makeout with Mark, but it’s 100 percent real. Maggie is really having the baby, but just as they’re rushing her to the hospital, the episode ends. (Cliffhanger, much?)

The Mark and Emma relationship (Is there a name for them yet? Memma? Tumblr, make it happen) — has been tricky since day one, with undeniable chemistry between the two of them, constantly and awkwardly underlined by the fact that Mark is a married man. On a show so focused on the importance of female relationships, the idea of Mark cheating on Tina with Emma is totally gross. Yet even despite that fact and Birdbones’ quirky charm, on some level, you still root for the two of them to get together romantically. It feels pretty weird.

Luckily, complicated relationships often produce great comedic moments, and this episode is proof of that. As things get more and more ridiculous, the jokes get funnier and funnier. And this was only episode 8! According to Lennon Parham and Jessica St. Clair, the craziest moments of season 1 are slated for next week’s penultimate episode. In the style of Breaking Bad or Game of Thrones, the season’s biggest shockers will come in the second-to-last episode. Hold on to your jammers, Jammers. Next week’s double-episode finale is sure to be intense. (And will probably include a baby.)

Winning one-liners:

  • “Obviously it’s not my goal to destroy a vagina.” — Maggie’s doctor
  • “Is this your correct email? I wanna send you some pics I found online of what we don’t want going on down there.” — Emma
  • “Has anyone warned you about the possibility of your baby being switched at birth?” — Emma’s mom
  • “Let’s go destroy that vagina!” — Emma

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

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