From the moment Beth, Ruby, and Annie decided to rob a grocery store in the premiere, they were thrust into an unexpected world of criminal activity. Their commitment to a life of crime was never intentional, but they have remained committed to each other, and that provides a sense of safety. Thankfully, that friendly devotion doesn’t change altogether in “Taking Care of Business.” But as this episode edges the season toward its halfway point, it begins to differentiate what these three women have to lose — and gain — as people who’ve found themselves cardigan-deep in a money-laundering scheme.
Ultimately, defining its three leads beyond a coffee-swilling, statement-wallpaper-loving, nice-lady amoeba also serves to highlight what makes Good Girl’s core trio work so well: When duffel bags of cash show up in each of their trunks, Beth looks startled, like she never considered this day would come; Ruby looks appropriately fearful; Annie looks thrilled. And when it’s time to cycle those fake bills out for real bills around town, Beth nearly flees the register at the first sign of a bill verifier, Ruby rolls out a full narration of a kitchen renovation gone wrong as she attempts to keep the clerk engaged, and Annie just waltzes into an electronics store and buys five of their most expensive flat screens, easy-peasy.
Still, the stakes holding Ruby, Annie, and Beth together remain the dramatic thrust that keeps Good Girls moving: They all need to keep their families safe and secure. It’s worth noting that while Ruby is the one who’s least inclined to participate in criminal activity, she’s also the one with the most to lose. For Ruby’s family, a sudden and inexplicable influx of cash could literally be life or death.
Beth and Ruby’s initial rollout of their money-cleaning plan — schemed up using a color-coded series of pins and rubber bands on Beth’s specially expanded Black Friday map — is a scene of caper-y perfection. The tension builds via frequent cuts between both women sweating it out while managers are called, receipts are checked, and bills are run through a surprise verification machine. I loved that it only became clear at the end that while Beth was making a successful big purchase, Ruby was making a successful big return, making for a completed cash-cleaning cycle. As their cars pass each other, headed in opposite directions, they stare at each other in amazement. “This shiz is gooood,” says Ruby of their Can’t Believe It’s Not Cash.
The idea that they could anonymously turn over fake cash while keeping the appearance of wealthy housewives is thrilling … until reality shows up in Beth’s driveway. With Dean out of the way, FBI Agent Turner corners Beth with a photo of Rio. Beth insists she’s never seen the man, but when it’s clear Turner isn’t buying that — and isn’t going away — she says she can’t talk about it in front of her kids, promising to come by his office.
Beth immediately brings Rio to her own office — her bullet-riddled minivan — and asks him what the hell she should do about the FBI having a photo of him in front of her house. He’s nonplussed: “That ain’t special, I’m on Facebook too.” Rio says if he didn’t have the FBI on his back, he wouldn’t be doing a good job. Beth asks how to explain what someone like her could possibly be doing with someone like him. “What are you doing with someone like me?” Rio purrs. So what if I happen to replay the moment a few dozen times? It gives Beth and I all the answer we need about how she should proceed.
But first, bigger fish to fry — Annie-size fish. While Beth and Ruby chose to slide a couple thousand dollars of kitchen appliances around, Annie went truly big-ticket. She asked the cute guy at the electronics store what their nicest flat-screen TV was, and then she bought five. And when he scribbled his number on her receipt for “in-home hookup,” she took him up on it since Sadie was out of town.
When Annie wakes up to her in-home hookup leaving in the middle of the night, I was sure he had found and stolen her cash, which would have been frustrating but reasonable. Instead, he’d taken her receipt for the TV purchase, which makes no sense, but serves as a means to get Beth and Annie angry at each other. (You’d think this show has proven itself to be more creative than that.) With the receipt gone, Beth swoops in with her gift for lying and natural authoritative presence, gets the guy’s home address from the electronics store, and the trio bustles over to his house…
…where he tells them he threw away the receipt and took out the garbage just before his wife and children join him at the door to ask who’s there. Weirdly, Beth covers for him in front of his wife, saying they have the wrong apartment.
So, presumably: This guy took the receipt with his number on it so there was nothing to tie him back to cheating on his wife … then took the piece of evidence back to the home he shares with his wife … where he threw it in the garbage … all so we could have Beth, Ruby, and Annie digging around in a dumpster for a (perfectly intact) receipt?
In said dumpster, Beth blows up at Annie for losing the receipt and “screwing a married guy,” and Annie blows up right back, saying Beth’s just mad because she hasn’t had sex since her daughter was born. (“It’s all dried-up ass twigs in there.”) For those who have questioned the believable nature of these two being sisters, well, there ya have it. It makes much more sense that two sisters as different as Beth and Annie would fight in a dumpster rather than merrily wade through a spontaneous life of crime together.
Ruby, who only had to tussle with an adult diaper in the dumpster, cleans up with hand sanitizer in the school bathroom before her daughter’s dance recital. But when she walks out into the hall, she finds that Sarah has just collapsed. At the hospital, the doctor says her kidneys are basically non-functioning, and questions if Sarah has been taking the fancy medication. (Y’know, the one that Ruby started all of this for in the first place?) Ruby and Stan assure the doctor she has: “You see her swallow?”
A hunt around Sarah’s room reveals a mint tin full of untaken pills. Sweet Sarah says she was feeling better, so she was saving them. She wanted to help her parents with “like, money and stuff.” I love this little family, and I loved listening to Stan and Ruby take the burden back off of Sarah by telling her something she needs to know: “The truth is … we’re stinkin’ rich. I’m talking stacks-on-stacks loaded.” Sarah is a smart enough cookie to just roll her eyes and laugh at her parents.
But Ruby is dead on the money when she tells Beth and Annie in the hospital waiting room, “All the stuff you think you’re keeping from them — you’re not.” These three may be getting away with their crimes right now, but while they’re still considering these money-grabs as just some crazy hobby, it’s obviously become much more involved than that. Their families are their entire motivation for acting so irrationally, but they’re also what they’ll lose if this all goes sideways.
Beth heads to Agent Turner’s office to tell him she had an affair with the man from the photo; that’s why she couldn’t be honest with him in front of her husband or children. Turner questions where Beth would have met a man like that, and she bumbles through saying she met him at a bar … at a restaurant … at a bar/restaurant. Beth starts to leave with Turner unconvinced of her explanations, and just as I’m getting frustrated that Beth can’t draw on her established skills of deceit when it’s most important, the episode subverts that frustration.
Beth sits back down. She looks Tuner in the eye and tells him, “It was a one-night stand.” She found out her husband was cheating, she was angry, and she went straight to a bar. She brought the guy home, they drank, she realized what she was doing was insane, and she told him to go. He kissed her; she kissed him back. “He pulled my panties down, and we screwed right on the kitchen table,” Beth lies and/or fantasizes. She tells Turner that it only happened once, she’s never seen the man again, and she doesn’t intend to. Turner stops her as she’s walking out: “Mrs. Boland … just be careful who you bring into your home.”
“I’m tougher than I look,” Beth responds, leaving with the power of a well-told lie.
A Few Loose Ends
• Crossover! Beth and Ruby’s money-laundering store of choice is Cloud9 from the NBC sister show Superstore.
• I loved Annie explaining to Rio that Beth’s initial inability to commit to things she wants is just part of her process: “Guess who ended up taking the piano lessons? Six years! It’s gonna be fine.”
• Annie and Beth give Ruby their entire cut of this first round of duffel-bag cash to pay Sarah’s hospital bill, much to her great relief, and mine.
• Beth and Ruby resolving their differences like only sisters can: “I said it wasn’t my finest moment!” “You also said it could have been way worse.” “Yeah, because I wanted to say ‘raisin cave’ and I restrained myself.”