American Woman Recap: Working Girls

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Photo: Paramount Network
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american woman

Changes and the New Normal Season 1 Episode 2
Editor's Rating 3 stars

Oh, men. They always come running back. It shouldn’t have surprised us when Bonnie’s husband Steve showed up in her living room trying to remind her of all the beautiful things that they shared when they were a couple. He talked about the kids, how he could never be successful without her, how she wouldn’t have to worry about money or career ever again in her life. All she had to do was show up in court so that the judge would think he’s a family man and give him a lighter sentence. Oh, it’s nothing at all.

Steve really is the worst, almost cartoonishly so. “Why don’t you have any gratitude?” he asks her. “This life you have, I gave it all to you. When we were together you never had to worry about anything.” It’s so easy, especially watching the ’70s from almost a half century in the future, to make fun of the way life looked back then, especially when Bonnie responds with a pat answer like, “Maybe that was the problem.”

What I found much more interesting in this scene is that Bonnie wants him to want her to do things for him, but she also wants him to want her. She doesn’t mind being used if he’s using her and only her. I think that is a valid position: She wants to help her man and herself be successful. It’s not her that’s lacking, it’s stupid Steve.

At least we found out what is really going on with Steve. Bonnie wakes up all alone, two weeks after that party that ended last episode, and she has an appointment. We see her go through her jewelry box and disobey Coco Chanel by putting every gold bauble, bracelet, and bangle in that box on her at one time. She looked like a Slim Aarons portrait come to live and I want to dress as her for Halloween every year until I die. It turns out she was going to meet with her accountant who tells her that she is completely bankrupt. Steve left her with nothing, except the house, which he placed in her name probably so that no one could come after it when they found out he really had no money.

The accountant (or whoever that dude was) also tells her that Steve was selling people beachfront property in Florida but it was really worthless swamp lands. He describes it as a “pyramid scheme,” but it sounds more like a regular old-fashioned swindle, if you ask me. He’s been caught out and tried with fraud but doesn’t think he’s going to have to go to jail. That sounds a little too optimistic if you ask me.

As for Bonnie, she’s now only got the $126 that Steve left in the bank account, she’s four months behind on her mortgage, and she has to buy a new suit to wear to a job interview for something she almost surely won’t get. Kathleen and Diana help her shop, and they’re no help at all, with Kathleen trying to dress her up in Yves Saint Laurent like she’s going to another country-club benefit and Diana trying to put her in something a poor bank teller wouldn’t even be caught in. They notice that the department store is looking for help, which sitcom writing 101 dictates that Bonnie be working there by episode’s end.

First, she has to wear her amazing all-white suit (which probably cost most of that $162) on a job we know she’s not going to get because the only skills she has is as the “transportation coordinator” for her family. You know, making sure the kids get to and from school when they’re not taking the bus. With some kind words from the professional woman at the temp agency, Bonnie walks away a little humiliated but with some good tips on how to handle herself in an interview. Well, mostly she learned not to hide her legs and not to talk about her kids, but it works.

Then, naturally she ends up back at the department store where she convinces the manager that her skills with rich housewives will help her sell all sorts of blouses, purses, and shoes. Like she says, she has a lot of rich friends she can blackmail into not shopping at Neiman Marcus.

The final kicker of the episode is Bonnie adjusting to her new job and talking to Louise, a new co-worker who seems to have Bonnie’s back. When Bonnie runs into one of the rich ladies who lunch that she is friends with, she hesitates to help her, but then she decides to pull the Band-Aid right off and gets this woman a pair of amazing white-and-gold open-toed shoes. “Don’t worry,” this nice lady tells Bonnie, “I won’t tell anyone.”

But Bonnie already knows the score. “Of course you will!” she replies in a voice you could almost call chipper. This is what people did before they had social media, they just had to find the biggest gossip in their circle and spread damaging information the old-fashioned way. Life was so much harder before we were all bothered by LinkedIn to congratulate some minor acquaintance on her work anniversary.

Things are getting really tough for Bonnie and the hardest scenes to watch were the one where her car gets repossessed in front of the whole neighborhood and the one where she tells her younger daughter that their lives don’t have to change. What’s so sad about that scene is that their lives should change. Steve is gone, Bonnie is finding her own way, and she’s trying to find something new. That means there will be change, but growth is never bad, even if it means that they might have to sell that house to keep afloat. Or she could just pawn all of that jewelry we saw her put on in the opening sequence!

Bonnie’s cohorts Kathleen and Diana got a bit of short shrift this episode, but they were also both concerned about their work lives. Diana puts herself in for a promotion that we know is going to go to her dumpy colleague with less experience and who would rather stare at his drinking bird toy than do any actual work. Diana’s boss also seems like a real jerk and like he’s probably going to #MeToo her at some moment in the next three episodes.

Kathleen is mostly concerned with getting it on with her boyfriend Greg, but he’s worried about opening their new casting agency. Actually, he’s using that as an excuse because he can’t get it up while in bed with a lady. Why? Because he’s gay! Duh! Later we see him practicing a filthy scene from a soap opera with a comely actor and he’s so aroused he goes in and bones Kathleen right there on the couch. The ’70s was the time of afternoon delight, and I hope for Bonnie and for all of us that our jobs come with such wonderful treats.

American Woman Recap: Working Girls