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Playing House - Season 1

'Playing House' season finale recap: Babies and bikers

Season 1 | Episodes 9 & 10 | “Let’s Have a Baby” & “Bugs in Your Eyes” | Aired June 17, 2014

Season 1 of Playing House began and ended with the little red playhouse in Maggie’s backyard. It’s more than just a cute visual aid for USA to use in promos for the show; it’s a place of refuge, a place these women retreat to in times of crisis. In the beginning, it’s Maggie who’s crouched in the tiny house, crying about her husband’s online infidelity. By the end, Emma is the one breaking down. And both times, Maggie and Emma lean on each other for support. Their friendship always wins.

Playing House lives in a world of low stakes, driven solely by its characters and their day-to-day interactions. It sounds obvious, but it’s no easy task making an audience care about the mundane. Jessica St. Clair and Lennon Parham don’t just charm you with their hilarious banter and improv prowess; this show works on an emotional level that isn’t often reached on television. There’s an honesty to Maggie and Emma’s friendship that adds an unquantifiable dimension to this little sitcom.

The penultimate episode, “Let’s Have a Baby,” is jam-packed with familiar sitcom tropes: the belligerent secretary, the miscommunication with the doctor, and the last-minute request for an epidural have all been seen a billion and one times. But the heart beating within this episode makes it one of the best of the season, and a perfect example of why this show is so necessary.

So yes, in “Let’s Have a Baby,” Maggie has her baby. Maggie’s usual doctor wins the lottery and drops his job and all responsibilities, leaving Maggie with an unfamiliar doctor, Doctor J (LOL), to help her through the birth. Doctor J assumes Maggie and Emma are lesbians, and they don’t deny it. Rather, they make up an elaborate backstory about how they met and fell in love. Emma was wearing a tankini bathing suit top, and Maggie, a sleeveless sweatshirt tuxedo top from Hugo Boss.

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Meanwhile, Zach has just returned from doula training in New Mexico, where he apparently learned how to be a man. And Bruce has just spent seven hours at a carnival trying to win an inflatable dolphin to give to Maggie as a gift. Maggie truly is surrounded by weirdos (including Emma … and herself).

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Though there is a series of miscommunications and minor complications, Maggie eventually successfully delivers her baby — who is healthy, happy and super-cute — with Emma by her side. The baby is a girl, and is named Charlotte, after Maggie’s mom. What a great pair of role models that baby is going to have! Side note: I know this is TV, but was that not the quickest birth you’ve ever seen?!

Just when you think Mark can’t get anymore perfect, he shows up the hospital with flowers and a bag of groceries for Emma — he thought they might be hungry. Before he leaves, though, he hints at problems at home with Tina.

And that brings us to the second episode, “Bugs in Your Eyes,” which takes us six weeks into the future, into the middle of crying babies and a rough patch for Mark and Tina.

Maggie is being a control freak about her baby, and that’s causing some tension between her and Emma. Emma wants to be a big part of baby Charlotte’s life, and Maggie wants that too. but she’s still majorly in new mom mode, sing-screaming “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” with all her might.

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Then Emma, who’s been waiting on a call from Mark about some vintage plates for Charlotte’s christening, gets a drunk call from Mark, who is at Rosie’s, drinking away his marital problems. She decides to head down there, and Maggie decides to join, arguing, “I’m not letting you go to a bar where your ex is by himself and drunk. That’s not appropriate.” GOOD POINT, MAGGIE.

When they show up, Rosie’s has been overrun by a biker gang. Between all the leather and bandanas, Mark is at the bar, sulking about losing his wedding ring in a bet. Maggie makes a pool challenge to reclaim the ring while Emma tries to get to the root of Mark’s problems. He reveals he was offered a better job as police sergeant in Stamford, Connecticut, which is three hours away. Tina doesn’t want to uproot her life, but he doesn’t want to give up an opportunity to advance his career. Not thinking, he starts to reminisce about his relationship with Emma, and they almost kiss again. But Emma does the right thing: She stops it.

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Meanwhile, Maggie’s pool game is hindered by the baby carrier strapped to her chest, and she learns a lesson about letting go. Sometimes she can’t be in control of everything, and she has to be able to trust. Otherwise having a newborn will drive her totally crazy. She wins back Mark’s ring for him and they all drive home, no damage done. It seems like a happy ending, but then Mark stops by the next morning with bad news. He and Tina have decided it would be best if he didn’t see Emma, at all, in any capacity. Not even as friends. And that’s how Emma ends up in the little red house.

The episode and the season end by playing to Parham and St. Clair’s strength as a duo: emotional connection. In a tearful and tear-inducing conversation, Maggie reveals that she’s decided to give her daughter the middle name Emma. And Emma, who’s feeling more lonely than ever with the exit of Mark from her life, is overjoyed to the point of tears. These two best friends are each other’s family. It’s a sweet, heartfelt moment between two character we’ve just spend 10 episodes getting to know and love. It’s nothing huge, it’s not terribly intense, but it’s a perfectly executed little moment with a lot of heart. It’s proof that not giving this show a second season would be a big, huge mistake.

Winning one-liners:

  • “He’s the only one who knows my vagina inside and out.” — Maddie
  • “Speaking of rolled meats, I was thinking about wearing a kilt.” — Bruce
  • “Oh my god, I thought you were having an ass explosion in here!” — Emma

 

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