We’ve all been waiting for a good Jackie story line, and though “No Country for Old Women” is far from the best episode of the Roseanne revival season so far, it does address one of the series’ ongoing struggles: Jackie and her contentious relationship with mama Beverly.
Because of 90-year-old Bev’s friskiness with the other residents at her nursing home, she was asked to leave, and that means one of her daughters has to offer her a new place to land. Roseanne is up first, and she learns Bev can be nice when she’s sleepwalking — so nice, she even compliments Roseanne’s skin and asks her how she’s doing. It’s those waking hours that are brutal, though. “She woke up and said, ‘Where the hell am I?’ and told me I ruined my children,” Roseanne tells Jackie.
Roseanne already has a houseful, anyway. If she also accommodated Bev, then Darlene, Harris, and Mark would have to share a bedroom at Casa Conner. Jackie, meanwhile, has a spare bedroom in her home, but there’s the little matter of her hating her mother, whose favorite pastime — besides passing along her STD to several men at the retirement home — is needling Jackie.
There may not be a country for old women, but there is a county home, a dreary drop-off where residents are so neglected they often die in the hallways. Roseanne admits to Dan she’s not entirely sure she wouldn’t have picked that option, but it doesn’t come to that after Jackie begrudgingly admits she loves her mother and doesn’t want her to die when Bev threatens to jump out a window.
Bev can’t believe Jackie is really willing to live with her. Jackie seems pretty surprised herself. “My life would be better without you, but it would be so much better if it was better with you,” Jackie says, expressing a rare, small bit of hope for the two of them. This whole life-coach gig of hers has apparently led her to address some of her own issues, as she realizes her part in their warring ways: She’s never gotten past needing her mother’s approval, and she has to admit to herself that she may never get it, and deal with Bev accordingly. She and Bev make a pact to try to smooth out their relationship, including therapy sessions, where they’re given a list of trigger words to avoid.
Of course, the list includes innocuous words like “hello” and “hi,” so it’s an uphill battle.
Elsewhere, Dan continues to butt heads with Darlene about his creative, free-thinking grandson, but it’s Dan who makes the better point in this round. When Mark asks to help his grandpa with a new drywall client — Conner neighbor Mr. Nelson — Dan tells Mark he can paint the birdhouse that Mr. Nelson ordered. When Mark unveils his masterpiece, it’s a bright, glittery, structure that isn’t even birdhouse shaped. (I desperately want that glorious birdhouse.) “Is this where birds stay when they go to Vegas?” Dan asks. He tells Mark he’s going to have to rebuild and paint the bird hangout himself, sending Mark off to his room and Darlene chastising her dad.
But, as Dan tells her, this isn’t about Mark’s individuality or expressing himself; it’s about simple customer service. Mr. Nelson asked for a birdhouse that matched his own abode. If he doesn’t get it from Dan, he’ll get it elsewhere. Darlene still thinks Dan is trying to make Mark a cookie-cutter kid, but Mark gets it. He wasn’t pouting in his room; he was in there rebuilding the birdhouse to Nelson’s specifications. Darlene tells him that the world will try to make him conform to its standards, so he has to learn how to balance his desire to make things special with following rules. He’s already ahead of her. The outside of the birdhouse fills Nelson’s order, but Mark paints a sun and flowers on the inside, so the birds will think it’s always summer.
Sweet kid! And much like his mother when she was one of the younger residents of the Conner home, he’s already savvy about the lessons the older Conners are trying to teach him.
• In another callback to the original run of Roseanne, we learn Bev is broke. She had a large payout from selling her house post-divorce in season five, and even gave her daughters enough cash to open a restaurant — RIP loose meat sandwiches — but the money ran out.
• Don’t worry too much about Bev, though. She may be low on funds and dependent on her daughters to take care of her, but her love life is still thriving. Becky invites Bev to live with her while Roseanne and Jackie are still passing her back and forth, but the new arrangement lasts less than a day because Becky comes home to find Bev and her boyfriend Lew (guest star Christopher Lloyd) gettin’ busy in Becky’s apartment. “It’s only four o’clock,” Jackie says. Becky: “Yeah, they went to dinner, came right back, and started doing it.”
• Bev, when Roseanne asks her how she’s doing: “Well, I didn’t sleep a wink with all the noise in this house, and that lumpy old bed that you’ve got me sleeping on, but I grew up in the Depression, so I’m not a complainer.”
• “I still say it’s gotta be easier to be in a relationship with a woman than with a man,” Roseanne says while pal Nancy is complaining about her girlfriend during a poker game in the Conner kitchen. Replies Bev, “I bet Dan thinks the same thing.” (Jackie and Roseanne may have been harsh in so openly handing Bev off to each other, but, you know, they’ve each got their reasons.)
• About that poker game: Not only is Nancy back, but so is Roseanne’s friend and mother-in-law, Crystal. No update on Crystal’s family, though, including her son, Lonnie, and Dan’s half-brother, Little Ed.
• Mark: “Why do birds need houses, when they have trees?”
Dan: “I’ll do you one better, and this’ll bend your mind: Why do we cut down trees to make the wood for birdhouses?”
Dan: “One day you’ll have a brownie in college, and it’ll make it even better.”