What a surprising and delightful character Zoey has turned out to be. She epitomizes the Millennial generation: Zoey’s often underestimated as entitled and superficial, but actually is an observant, smart, and caring person who analyzes information quickly, much like the smartphone she can’t be without.
In “The Leftovers,” Dre has chosen The Lion King for family-movie night, but the kids aren’t that enthusiastic. The advertising executive that he is, Dre makes a great case for the Disney classic. Diane counters by asking that they not fast-forward through Mufasa’s death scene. Jack becomes upset, though, because he thought the family just didn’t want him to see lion sex. Dre and Bow clumsily placate their tenderhearted son by reminding him that Simba had Timon and Pumbaa to look after him. This, of course, leads Jack to ask a question: If Dre and Bow die, who will be the meerkat and warthog to guide them? Dre and Bow are thrown for a loop, realizing they never formally prepared a plan to address guardianship in case of tragedy.
The subject sends them straight to the tequila bottle. Pops disappears too much to be trusted. Dre doesn’t want Bow’s parents as guardians, either, because they raised Bow in a cult and live in a bus powered by human waste. Sure, the fuel produces 30 percent less pollution than diesel, but Bow’s mom, Alicia, constantly has pinkeye. Bow thinks Ruby would be terrible because she’d turn the kids into snake-handling Evangelists. One by one, they reject the rest of each other’s family. The next day at work, Dre spends his time using a version of a murder board to weigh his options.
Mr. Stevens thinks Dre is casting a new Spike Lee movie until Lucy explains what he’s really doing. Josh’s feelings are hurt that he’s not considered a friend and therefore isn’t in the running. After eliminating GiGi, Sha, and even Charlie, Dre decides on Drake because they’re cut from the same cloth and they both have great beard game. Lucy reminds him that Drake is Canadian. Oops, Dre is out. Mr. Stevens chimes in, “What the hell, Dre. I’ll take your little black kids.” Cut to the hilarious opening credits for Diff’rent-ish Strokes, a mocking tribute to a show about a wealthy older white man who adopts a pair of black siblings.
The idea of Mr. Stevens serving as guardian doesn’t win Dre over, so he and Bow decide to have a Mom-Off. They’ll sit down with Ruby and Alicia, ask them the pertinent questions, and choose the best person. What could go wrong with that?
Meanwhile, Jack has invited his siblings to his room for “Chips and Truth.” He wants to know what other lies the family has told him. No, Disneyland isn’t closed on Fourth of July. The dog Spinach … well, his real name is Nacho, and yes, he’s dead. There is no basement museum for his old art. Jack-enheim doesn’t exist, poor thing. Junior takes great pleasure in breaking Jack’s heart with these truth bombs. He even breaks the ice around Diane’s by revealing that her stuffed frog, Squeaks, is not the one she had when she was a baby. Squeaks isn’t in pristine condition because Bow washes him in Woolite and love; there’s a whole crate of Chinese knockoffs in the garage. (The latest Squeaks was pulled out on Tuesday.) Diane refuses to remain at Junior’s mercy, though, and tells him the truth about his birthday phone calls from President Obama. It’s been Dre the whole time, punking his idiot son.
Elsewhere, Ruby has been floating around, “computer-talking” (a.k.a. Skype-ing) with her lover, Davis, while he’s out of town. She asks Zoey to show her how to make sure Davis will see her ample cleavage as they video-chat together. I’m glad that Ruby and Davis are still together. Seeing an older woman like Ruby have an active love life is important, even if it grosses out the rest of the family.
Dre and Bow arrange a video conference with Alicia, then sit Ruby down next to her. They explain they’re looking for guardians for the kids in case of a tragedy. Ruby is immediately inconsolable at the thought Dre may be dying from the Sugar, a.k.a. diabetes. (She’s not nearly as devastated about Bow potentially dying.) After assuring both parents that there are no immediate concerns, Dre and Bow ask what would they do. Ruby gives a very Donald Trump–like response, declaring she’d make the family great again, but provides no additional details. Alicia starts off strong, saying she’d sit the kids down to address what’s happened, but she quickly turns to an impractical New Age response about not really needing to be present because energy is everywhere. This sets Ruby off, so she storms out, refusing to “computer-talk” with someone who can’t even be physically present.
Soon, Dre and Bow devolve to “your mama” jokes before Dre vows to outlive Bow. Realizing his dietary habits pretty much ensure he’ll die first, he tries to make a set of videos called Dre’s Ways, or Dways, as a journal of advice for the kids. It doesn’t go so well — he just keeps crying. Dre and Bow eventually decide to assign Ruby as legal guardian in case anything happens, but then Zoey steps in. Grandma Ruby is “half teenager, half elderly person,” she says, which is a terrible mix in a guardian.
Zoey has been putting out fires all week, both literally and figuratively. Ruby fell asleep in a bathtub surrounded by candles while Davis sang James Ingram over Skype. A towel caught flames, but Ruby wouldn’t wake up so Zoey saved the day with a fire extinguisher. She also wrote Junior a letter “from” President Obama, ran over the current Squeaks a few times to make it look like Diane’s original, and created Jack-enheim in the dining room for Jack’s art. In other words, she does an amazing job taking care of the family. That’s why she refuses to allow anyone other than herself to take care of her siblings. As long as Dre and Bow can survive the 22 months until she turns 18, everything will be alright.
Watching Zoey step up to support her brothers and sister was really sweet and endearing. She’s totally redeemed herself after her brattiest moment, and I’ve enjoyed watching her grow. She may have refused the hug Bow wanted to give her, but even that is a testament to how well Zoey knows herself. She is a smart young adult, capable of making her own decisions. In the end, that’s all any parent can hope for.