It seems we’re crossing the border into recapping Good Girls at just the right time — thankfully not with butts full of cocaine. A series about three good women breaking bad to take some much needed control over their lives is an exciting concept, and Good Girls is still figuring out how to strike the balance between dark subject material and the buddy-crime comedy it’s striving to be. What’s most special about the show, of course, is its three lead actors who can switch between the euphoric high of success and the crushing weight of reality with nothing more than a furrowed brow or twitching left eye, and with this third episode, everything is clicking into place.
In “Borderline,” the high stakes finally meet witty execution in a more sustainable balance. This is a tricky tone to nail: In one moment, they’re toasting with fruity margaritas to a crime well committed, and in the very next instant, Beth is reckoning with what it means to go back to her “normal” life, and Ruby is suddenly recalling, “Wait. I shot a man.” It is perhaps the joke-for-joke funniest episode yet, but it’s also the one where the women begin taking accountability for their own bad-girl behavior, and how it will never stop affecting their lives. Their pasts may have been defined by men who made bad choices on their behalves, but their futures — and our futures with them — will be defined by the choices that they make. And this week, Beth, Annie, and Ruby are making some choices. Whether they be good, bad, or absolutely insane (looking at you and your sweater set, Beth!).
The episode opens with all three women drumming their fingers on their ever-present colorful mugs of coffee while Beth tells them that Rio will forgive their debts if do some mystery act across the Canadian border for him. Annie is confident they’ll be putting drugs in their butts … unless they’re transporting guns, which at least can’t be put up their butts, she says. That’s when Beth’s youngest comes in to tell Mama she had a bad dream, because these women are, of course, all mamas. It’s why they shouldn’t be doing something like this, and why they have to do this.
While they plan their caper, it’s on with normal life, where Annie is preparing for the home-visit from CPS that will play into the custody battle for Sadie, and Ruby is in church with her adorable family. Her husband Stan wants to give praise today: He knows the church has been praying for their daughter’s health, and indeed, a miracle came in the form of an anonymous donation to Sarah’s health fund. Praise be to — well, Ruby, who really wants Stan to stop talking about their miracle in public. But while she’s tugging him down, a woman across the aisle stands up, saying she didn’t want a lot of attention, “I just couldn’t stand to see your little girl so sick.” Ruby’s eyes bug out of her head as this Sheila gives a lingering hug to her very grateful husband.
All three women are pretty sure they don’t want to get heroin in their car cushions, so they plot to “borrow” a car from Dean’s dealership before setting out. Once in a sensible (and stolen) Jeep SUV, they try to stay calm as Beth drives them through border patrol. But when Ruby admits that she brought Stan’s unloaded gun, Beth finally loses it, questioning what happens if they get caught. Annie tells her it’s not like they have a choice, and Beth responds, “There’s always a choice.”
Of course, it’s not a choice any of them are willing to make. Beth begs Ruby and Annie to tell her to turn around, but no one says anything, which is a choice all its own. It’s a pivotal moment for these characters: Outside circumstances may have led Beth, Annie, and Ruby to this point at border patrol, but it’s their own choice to move forward into the great Canadian unknown.
“Still think it’s drugs?” Beth asks as they pull up to a craft store. “Worse — scrapbooking,” says Annie, correctly. But Mike, the man they’re supposed to be meeting in the back, won’t give Beth the packages, and he won’t give them to Annie either. So it’s time for Ruby, certainly the least crime-oriented of the three, to step up to the plate. She marches up to him in her sensible jacket, with her unloaded gun, greets Mike by name … and immediately and unintentionally shoots him in the foot.
Mike relents amid a trio of profuse apologies (and Ruby’s panic-wheezing), quickly telling them where the packages are. They hightail it back to the border with Annie assuring Ruby, “He’s about to get the best free care socialized medicine can buy!” And they’re about to get sent to the search-and-seizure lane to double-check the ten boxes of crafting supplies in their trunk. The tension is high as the boxes are cut open and drug dogs sniff at them, but ultimately, the women are sent on their merry way. They quickly pull over to investigate the boxes themselves, because they can’t believe it’s really just wrapping paper in there…
But it is: roll after roll of snowman wrapping paper with counterfeit $100 bills printed on the back. The ladies pull up to a comically shady warehouse to make the drop to Rio. The car is unloaded and they get a peek at the full operation of what goes into verifying millions of counterfeit bills, but when Beth tries to speak to Rio, she gets nowhere. He’s busy running his operation, not interested in giving her reassurance that they’re off the hook. Beth turns around to leave, but suddenly stops — Rio isn’t the only one in charge of an operation around here. She marches back up to him, levels him with a stare, and tells him she’s going to need to hear him say it. “We’re good,” he tells her.
Oh, but they are so not. As the ladies celebrate their completed task with the aforementioned margaritas, Dean calls Beth to tell her that cops are at his dealership because … a car was stolen. The women decide to just ditch it somewhere, right at the moment the dashboard shows the Bluetooth syncing to Annie’s phone. She tries to disconnect it, but Bluetooth truly is the STD of technology, and there’s no getting her name off the car’s smart screen.
It is a perfect comedic beat when Annie attempts to answer her phone in the next scene, only to have it pick up inside the car that all three women are watching sink into a lake. How awful then, that it leads to Annie realizing she’s late for her home-visit. She rushes back to find that Sadie has cleaned the apartment and prepared refreshments for the social worker, and they’re somehow able to make a good impression. Until, that is, Sadie throws her hand up to stop the social worker from going inside Annie’s room where she’s stuffed everything to clean up in her mom’s absence. That’s when both women see that Sadie has cut her finger badly, and Annie had no idea.
The social worker is appalled at how long Sadie must have been left alone, saying she’ll have to report this. In Good Girls, bullets will likely never hit vital organs and our leads might not ever have to put drugs in any unsavory crevices, but the personal stakes for their bad choices are there (and they are adorable in bow ties). As much as we like Annie, and as cool of a kid as Sadie is, Annie simply can’t leave her alone to transport counterfeit money without consequences. Later, after they’ve been to the hospital, Annie apologizes to Sadie and tries to explain that she was doing something really important. Sadie asks her mom sadly, “What’s more important than me?”
That theme of choosing your own path rings out clear as a bell once more when Stan comes over to Beth’s house to ask her to stay together. Given their financial situation, he just doesn’t think they have much of a choice. “There’s always a choice,” Beth tells him. And this time, she doesn’t beg anyone else to make it for her. She drives over to Rio’s warehouse and knocks on the door, but inside, the whole operation has been wiped clean. She could leave without trace. It could really all be over.
Until Beth takes off her pearl necklace and drapes it over the doorknob.
“You know the tradition is Jordans over a phone line, right?” Rio teases her later, after he receives her signature message. I don’t think I’m wrong to say that there’s chemistry between these two. But Beth isn’t falling for Rio; she’s seduced by the opportunity for a new life, one that she’s thrilled to have a knack for. “So, what’d you want to talk to me about?” Rio asks. Beth opens her mouth — cut to credits.
A Few Loose Ends
• As much as I cannot stand Boomer, I’m glad to see that he’s still around. Annie’s Dick Pic Trick™ trick was a Band-Aid to that problem, not a solution, and I’m relieved to see the series treating it as such.
• Another Band-Aid, but a highly entertaining one: Ruby standing up at church to thank Sheila for being so generous to their family. “Thank you for the money. And for offering to drive our kids home from school, and to do the groceries — at Whole Foods! Because this woman only shops organic.” It’s a fun, empowering moment for Ruby, even if her beloved husband is none the wiser to the web his wife is caught up in.
• “I don’t know, I’m just saying words I’ve heard before!” Annie, talking about wiping the Jeep’s hard drive.
• All the kicky caper music is great in this episode, especially Gin Wigmore’s “Written In the Water” as Beth makes her final decision to go in deeper with Rio.