The Conner family finally catches a break: Roseanne is going to get the cash for her knee surgery, and all it takes is a disaster to make it happen.
Roseanne and her brood have been caught at a bad station throughout this revival season. As we learned in the earlier episode, Roseanne is an Uber driver, Dan is still in construction, and they still can’t afford to get full refills on their prescriptions. Adding to the already overextended household budget, Darlene and her kids move back to Lanford and into the house. And then their lives get worse: To halt what is rapidly heading toward a full-blown pain-medication addiction for Roseanne, Dan is willing to go to any length to come up with the $4,000 for her surgery. That means submitting a low bid for a new work project, a bid so low that it will preclude him from hiring his friend Chuck to work with him. Chuck, his best friend of 30 years, doesn’t take this development well.
But Dan is too busy trying to save the family’s memories to mourn the friendship because life has dished up another scoop of misery in the form of an intense rainstorm that floods the Conner basement. With the water more than ankle-deep and rising, John Goodman — the once and still and always great John Goodman — sums up his sorrow for Chuck, which is rising faster than that water.
“What do you want me to do? I got three extra mouths to feed since Darlene moved back. Roseanne started popping pills because we didn’t have the money to fix her knee. And now I got $20,000 of water damage. I spent my whole life hanging on by my fingertips, telling everybody not to worry, that I was going to make it okay, because that’s my job,” Dan says. “Well, now I can’t promise that anymore, so, yeah, it makes me sick, but I’m gonna do whatever I have to do to take care of my family, because I’m old, I’m tired, and I’m not sure how much longer I can hold on.”
“I always told you, if I’m eating, you’re eating,” Dan tells Chuck. “I’m not eating.” It’s Dan at his weariest, and he takes his frustrations out with a crowbar against a basement door after a shelving unit breaks and dumps more of the family’s possessions into the flood.
Hope lives, though, and not in that Brady Bunch, everything-is-solved-in-a-half-hour way. As the storms worsen across Illinois, a state of emergency is declared. That means FEMA will disburse funds to homeowners to repair damages, and since Dan can do that work himself, there will be money left over for Roseanne to fix her bum leg hinge. Dan and Roseanne celebrate with Chinese takeout and sparkling cider.
Darlene’s situation may finally improve, too, but that’s less surprising. Darlene has always been an outlier in the family, the one Conner truly willing to leave the Lanford nest and believe that she could make a life beyond it. For Dan and Roseanne and unemployed DJ and tired waitress Becky (we’re still not fully up to speed on Jackie’s financial situation, but if she had $4,000, she’d presumably lend it to her sister), the future seems likely to offer more of the same.
But Darlene’s job as a cocktail waitress at the local casino is just what she needs to motivate her to start writing again. She’s not sure anything will come of the piece she’s working on — inspired by her humbling experiences at the casino — yet the job and her desire for a better life for herself and her kids has sent her back to her laptop, working on her story at night, even after an exhausting shift on her feet.
Darlene loves and respects her family, especially her parents. But to paraphrase what Roseanne observed to Dan about a then-teen Becky in season five’s “Aliens,” Darlene just wouldn’t be paying attention if her return to her childhood home hadn’t reinforced her resolve to avoid her parents’ hardships. Darlene will be okay, and in a season-ender that would have been satisfying even if ABC hadn’t renewed Roseanne after this batch of nine episodes, the rest of the resilient Conners will be too. For now, anyway.
• In another nod to one of the series’s legacies, Harris finds out just how into Halloween her family has been, thanks to the many boxes of old costumes saved from the flooded basement.
• And another piece of the Bev puzzle is revealed in those basement boxes: Roseanne and Jackie’s mom has a creepy doll named Magdalena that she loved and cared for more than she did her own daughters, according to the sisters. They even discover Bev’s old diary … written from Magdalena’s point of view.
• Dan and Chuck’s business (and personal) relationship is saved by the storm, too, as the town is going to be, well, flooded with construction work after all the damage is assessed and all the FEMA cash is distributed. But Chuck doesn’t want to work for Dan anymore — he wants to be an equal partner, with three weeks of vacation.