The Real O’Neals
The Real O’Neals has done a good job establishing Kenny’s story, and with a second season officially in the works, it makes sense that the show would begin to focus on other characters. In “The Real Rules,” Pat and Eileen stumble through their first real dates. It’s a welcome addition, as the family continues to grow into their new lives.
As the episode opens, the kids are suffering through a Chicago heat wave during the final six days of school — six extra days, which were added to make up for snow days. Eileen refuses to let them off easy, forcing “brain smoothies” on them in the morning so they can stay prepared for their finals. Even on a Friday, she won’t let them slack off; she expects them to stay at home to study. As the kids prepare for another day of school, Pat comes up from the basement in skinny jeans. The family is careful not to comment, lest they hurt Pat’s feelings, but his attire definitely does not go unnoticed. When Pat drops a bagel and can’t bend over, Kenny tries to blackmail him. He’ll give Pat the bagel if he lets the kids off the hook for studying. Nice try, Kenny, but Pat’s not having it.
It turns out Pat has a date with a woman named Gloria, who works in the crime-scene photo lab at the police department. When Pat tells Eileen about the date — he wants to be upfront, so there’s no secrecy between them — she’s pretty chill about it, but lets him know she’s not making waffles for any of his visiting tramps. They both agree it’s time they start to date, so they establish some rules: They won’t date anyone they both know, and they won’t introduce their dates to the kids without first introducing them to each other. With the dating pact complete, they take off their rings … which seem to be stuck on their fingers. Eileen quips that if her pants had been as hard to get off, maybe they wouldn’t be in their current situation.
Pat and Eileen’s healthy approach to their divorce is such a refreshing change for network television. They can joke about what led them to marry each other, while remaining open to the fact that they’ll soon be dating other people. Yet, they’ll certainly stumble along before they accept it. Those moments of jealousy won’t go away easily. After all, they’ve been together for more than 18 years! Old habits are difficult to break, but so far, they seem to be taking everything in stride.
Pat accidentally forgets his wallet — with his badge inside — because he couldn’t fit them in his skinny jeans. This means Gloria has to pay for their drinks, which makes Pat uncomfortable. He’d already had one misfire when he ordered a drink called “The Miami Vice,” something he figured would be a manly concoction, but turns out to be a dainty drink, complete with a curled orange peel as garnish. It looks pretty pitiful next to Gloria’s huge beer mug. Pat wants to go home, get his wallet, then take Gloria out for a proper meal … until he gets a call from a fellow officer. The kids found his wallet and they’re using his badge at Lenny’s Diner to get free food. No need to guess: Jimmy and Shannon are the ringleaders of this scheme.
And so Pat decides to go pick up the kids, with Gloria in tow. Oops, that means he’s already broken one of the dating rules. He starts to panic, then tells the kids to act like they’ve never met Gloria, which isn’t endearing at all. When Pat drops the kids off, Gloria asks to use the restroom and he turns into a sweating teenager: “I can’t have girls over.” Even the kids know he just lost all of his cool points. Pat relents, but she has to be quick. Unfortunately, Gloria gets stuck inside the bathroom because the door swelled stuck from the heat. Pat tries to get her out, but he breaks off the doorknob and can’t find the proper tools to fix it. An exasperated Gloria kicks down the door, making Pat feel even more emasculated than his Miami Vice drink did. Gloria tells him she’s not interested in dating him while he has so much to deal with, and then she leaves. Poor Pat.
While Pat has a horrible first date, Eileen goes to the kids’ school to meet with vice-principal Murray. Shannon bought all the prom tickets and has been selling them at crazy marked-up prices. She also locked VP Murray out of the school website. (Or maybe he just forgot the password.) Eileen points out that there was no ticket limit, so she’s not sure why Shannon should be punished. VP Murray is frustrated that the extra school days prevented him from going on a bike-and-wine tour of Wisconsin, where he hoped to meet eligible singles. As he explains how he’s had a hard time since his divorce, Eileen finds herself drawn to him. She can relate to those difficulties. And just like that, they’re sharing a steamy kiss. Whoa!
I must say, I was not expecting a thing between Eileen and VP Murray, but it makes sense. He’s the only other available man around, it seems, and the prospect of Eileen trying to hide a relationship with the kids’ vice-principal is certainly promising. For now, though, she tries to pump the breaks. She convinces herself that she’s just acting out because of Pat’s date, so she goes back to VP Murray’s office to apologize. When she sees him, he’s drinking a box of Wisconsin rosé and he’s wearing his biking shorts and cleats. For some reason, this turns Eileen on and she ends up making out with him again. Who would’ve thought Lycra was Eileen’s weak spot?
At home, Eileen cracks open her own box of Wisconsin wine and tells Pat they don’t need to tell each other all the details about their new dating lives. Pat agrees. It looks like Eileen’s dating life may be more successful than Pat’s, even if it is wrapped in secrecy. That’s pretty surprising: Eileen had told Jodi she was fine being single, that she enjoyed having her own time. Also, the kids were more concerned about Pat. Shannon even dismissed the idea of Eileen dating because she’s “cray.” There’s probably some gender bias here, an inability to able to see their mother as a person with her own desires and needs. Her stern nature probably doesn’t help, either. Pat is the open, thoughtful one. It makes sense that their kids would assume he’d have an easier time getting back on that dating horse, but yet again, Eileen proves we shouldn’t underestimate her.