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'Mom' fall finale react: Comedy gets serious

Season 2 | Episode 8 | “Free Therapy and a Dead Lady’s Yard Sale” | Aired Aug 18, 2014

EW Community contributors Tamar Barbash, Sundi Rose Holt, and Julia Alexander are chatting about each new episode of Mom this season. Here are our thoughts about “Free Therapy and a Dead Lady’s Yard Sale.”

Julia: Ladies, tonight’s episode of Mom got pretty dark. What did you think of it?

Tamar: I thought it was this show at its best.

Sundi: I agree. Tonight really pushed the limits of what we can accept from a comedy.

Tamar: I really appreciate the way they find strategic places to throw in the humor. Like, we’ll make a joke out of the inept therapist, but not of what is actually being said in therapy.

Julia: Tonight was everything I ever wanted from the series culminated into one episode.

Sundi: Anna Faris (and I can’t believe I am saying this) plays an AMAZING straight woman to Allison Janney.

Julia: It’s funny because you would assume Janney would take on the matriarchal role.

Sundi: That is tempered, however, in their shared addiction experience. It’s like they are the only two people who understand each other’s journey.

Julia: Absolutely, Sundi. It’s just interesting to me that Faris takes on most of the responsibility and not Janney. Makes for interesting storytelling.

Tamar: Yes, exactly. Bonnie still really straddles the line in terms of being a mother. She’s certainly not the mess she once was, but we don’t get to see her really taking care of Christy. They are more like an equal team. That’s why it was so great when Bonnie plowed through that therapy session and insisted on telling Violet the truth.

Julia: No, and it was fantastic. It was a real mother lion moment.

Sundi: That moment in therapy was one of the most honest moments I’ve seen from this series so far. Sometimes the dynamic can seem a bit contrived, but tonight it came through with real honesty.

Julia: They handled it with such grace, honesty and authenticity that it didn’t feel tired or trying too hard to seem more important than it was. Really enjoyed it.

Sundi: Bonnie and Christy really do make a parenting team, and it’s this paradigm that makes the show succeed.

Tamar: To see how severely she was affected by Christy’s experience.

Julia: And how terrible she feels for not being there to stop this abusive man from taking advantage of her daughter. I liked that they included the swerving joke, though. It was a really cathartic moment after the therapy scene.

Sundi: This guilt is hard to deal with in a comedy. I like that they are trying to address it, but it’s hard to make sense of. I don’t know how to contextualize it. Christy’s guilt, Violet’s guilt, Baxter’s guilt. The show is thick with it. They dance around it, but have never outright addressed it like they did tonight. Violet came at Christy hard.

Sundi: As a viewer, though, it is a weird situation. I come to this show as a comedy, but I stay because I am so invested in the characters. It’s a little like emotional whiplash.

Julia: It’s become a dramedy. But it’s been able to do it in half an hour instead of a full hour, which is an incredible feat.

Sundi: Absolutely. It almost makes me wish for an hour with it.

Tamar: So hard. And that’s why I bring up this question: When you’ve been messing up for as long as Christy has, how can you parent your child without being a huge hypocrite? Or, more to the point, how can you reconcile the hypocrisy?

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Julia: I think Christy sees the relationship she has with Bonnie and doesn’t want that for Violet. She’s desperately trying to rectify their own relationship so Violet doesn’t end up in Christy’s position.

Tamar: And then her response is “leave me alone, you messed up, why can’t I?”

Sundi: We don’t get enough of Christy’s children’s voices. I am DYING to know more about Violet’s dad. I am mentally compiling a short list of actors that I want to see in that role.

Tamar: I’m also interested from Violet’s perspective.

Julia: I think Violet is the most interesting character.

Sundi: Violet’s downward spiral has been coming for a while now, and they still didn’t really explore it fully. But I believe the trajectory has real potential.

Julia: It’s the first time they explored Violet giving the baby away as a plot point since it happened, too.

Tamar: We’ve been saying all season that we need more Violet, and they delivered, and it was perfect.

Julia: Violet is dealing with so much that she would be such an interesting character for the writers to explore. She’s taking her mother and grandmother’s addictions alongside dealing with not knowing her father and giving up a baby. She’s one of the most complex characters ever written, but we don’t get enough time with her.

Tamar: Hopefully this episode was a hint of what’s to come.

Julia: I think a lot of this show’s character development is fueled by the idea of dysfunction begetting dysfunction. What’s interesting is that usually dysfunction is fueled by an antihero. Mom doesn’t necessarily have an antihero, but there isn’t a wholesome character who could act as the hero, either.

Sundi: Julia, I disagree. I think the entire show is comprised of antiheroes. In a vacuum, we would hate all these characters individually. But together, they make up this beautiful mess.

Julia: Sundi, that’s an interesting take on it. Personally, I wouldn’t classify any of them as antiheroes because they’re not purposely trying to do bad. They’re broken, uninspired, bored and trying to just get by. They’re messes, but they’ve learned from their mistakes and are trying to do better.

Sundi: It’s all perception, Julia. Although, their scrappiness makes them so much more endearing than our traditional dark heroes.

Tamar: They don’t necessarily fit the TV mold of characterization. More than any characters on TV, for me, Bonnie and Christy just feel like people.

Julia: I agree, Tamar. They seem like people you would meet at a park or in a grocery store. In many ways, I think they’re a great representation of postrecession North America.

Sundi: Tamar, that is a really interesting way to approach it. I keep trying to fit these characters into traditional female TV tropes and they won’t go. I love it.

Julia: The reality is there are probably a lot more families who can identify with this family, despite all their flaws, than the Brady Bunch. The death of the American dream in postrecession America is this.

Sundi: Julia, that is spot on. Christy and Bonnie are executing the NEW American dream.

Tamar: Even people who aren’t struggling with addiction are fighting to survive poverty and unemployment and homelessness.

Julia: Which is why I really enjoy the episodes when they focus on their lack of money, or tonight’s theme. Even leaving out a male figure for the kids, unfortunately, is pretty spot on.

Tamar: And as you said, Julia, the domestic abuse is so important to explore.

Sundi: Mom still has to the diversity hurdle to conquer. I’d like to see some actors of color introduced to the mix. Just to spread the love a little.

Tamar: Agreed.

Julia: Absolutely. That’s one of the only aspects it’s missing as of right now. I completely agree, Sundi.

Julia: Any last thoughts on the episode?

Tamar: This episode was beautifully written and acted, and highlighted why Mom is such a special show.

Sundi: Strong showing. Most definitely the best so far.

Tamar: More Sadie Calvano!!

Julia: Couldn’t have said it better myself.

Mom airs Thursdays at 8:30/7:30C on CBS.

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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