In last week’s recap, I wrote “I don’t think anything will help Maddy until Deirdre confronts her husband and acknowledges that their family isn’t functioning.” A commenter (kindly) called me Captain Obvious for that one. Fair enough! This week, Deirdre deliberately steered away from a chance to begin repairing their family, in one of this episode’s many surprising and fascinating new character developments. Catherine Keener got some great scenes, and Judy Greer was given some more spotlight than usual in this standout episode.
Now that Mr. Pickles has gotten laid, there’s a new spring in his step. He leaves Vivian’s apartment to immediately head to Jill’s house to more or less ask permission to have feelings for another woman. Apparently since Jeff and Peter last chatted, Peter got himself a license plate with his new Mr. Pickles-approved nickname: Big P (little does he know, of course, that in Mr. Pickles’ mind the “P” stands for pussy because he’s a passive-aggressive adolescent). Peter and Jill are happy for Mr. Pickles, and he’s happy too, dancing around the office singing “Touch-a, Touch-a, Touch-a Touch Me” from The Rocky Horror Picture Show. (When on earth did Mr. Pickles see and enjoy Rocky Horror?) Unfortunately, Vivian doesn’t immediately respond to Jeff’s morning-after text so it doesn’t take long for him to start spinning out and panicking. For anyone, some anxiety would be normal, but with what we’ve seen of Jeff’s history, the need for a woman to text him back immediately fits his controlling pattern.
Mr. Pickles’ new invented-workplace-conflict-cum-Oedipal-tantrum is a concern that a kid will follow his lead on the show and jump over a waterfall in a barrel. This, too, seems somewhat cribbed from Fred Rogers’ famous frustration with children’s entertainment that blurred the lines between fantasy and reality, which he felt was unsafe. Sebastian assures Jeff that no kid has ever done the drop, then we get some footage of a kid doing just that in 1992. As we see at the end of the episode, though, the kid safely parachutes to the ground. I’ve watched this episode three times now and I can’t quite make sense of this sequence, which I kind of like! Maybe it’s something that will be explained eventually, maybe it’s just something I missed, or maybe it’s magic. Combined with the farm-to-doorstep pickle sequence that opens this episode, I’m growing to appreciate the show’s diversions.
Convinced that his phone is broken and that’s why Vivian won’t text him back, Mr. Pickles tracks down Will to drag him to the store to get his phone looked at. Will’s still hanging with his stoner pals (one kid is smoking weed out of a pineapple!!!!!) practicing card tricks! Mr. Pickles, I know you want your son with you to parse the details of your hookup, but you bought the kid a magic kit so he could make friends and now he’s doing magic tricks for his friends and you track him down in the woods and pull him away? To a cell phone store?
The guy at the cell phone store sees that Vivian just, like, hasn’t texted Jeff back, but Will parents his dad by suggesting that maybe Vivian’s phone is broken. This scene also includes the revelation of my favorite detail of the series so far: Mr. Pickles pays the bills (rent, utilities, phone, etc) for the driver who hit the car Jeff’s family was in, killing Phil. Will asks Jeff why he doesn’t hate the man, and Jeff gives one of his first actually good pieces of advice: “Hate doesn’t punish who you think it does.” What also makes this so remarkable is that it’s a rare act of charity that Mr. Pickles keeps secret — he doesn’t demand celebration for it or slap his name on it like the hospital wing. He’s just doing a kind thing to be kind.
Over at Deirdre’s house, we get a really startling scene where Scott tries to come out to Deirdre, but she stops him. She feels strongly that divorce will make Maddy an unhappy adult. Deirdre had no problem confronting Rex about his affair with Scott; it’s so interesting that she can’t go a step further here. She wants her husband to stop sleeping around, it seems, but other than that she doesn’t care if he’s gay (or bi?). Or at least, she doesn’t think it’s worth getting divorced over. This can’t end well, Deirdre!
From here, the episode is more or less horror after horror. Maddy has lost a tooth, but when Deirdre tries to replace it with money under her pillow, she can’t find it. The next morning we learn why: Maddy has been saving all her baby teeth and using them to make her own puppet, which is absolutely the stuff of nightmares and I want to become a regular feature, if not a main character, on the show. The sound of those teeth clicking together as the puppet “talked” will haunt me forever.
Deirdre immediately moves to another puppet nightmare. She acquiesces to build a Mr. Pickles head for the ice show that Sebastian’s obsessed with (he bullies her into it by showing her a crappy head design he commissioned). Jeff walks in on her working, and as he stares at the big head, she breaks down, apologizing that she’s taken a step back from being involved in his life because she didn’t know what to do after his kid died. Instead of responding, he puts the head on, asks her if she’s seen RoboCop, and wearing the head describes the plot of RoboCop, finishing with: “It just gets way more violent.”
And indeed it does! Jill visits Jeff in his apartment, where he’s bandaged his hand and is repairing a lamp he smashed. She’s understandably upset to learn that he pays the bills of the man who (through no fault of his own) killed their son. As she’d mentioned previously, Jeff is wildly controlling with their money, and made them live well below their means for years. Don’t make her feel guilty for wanting to buy shoes, Jeff! Come on! They cry together, which actually feels super necessary, but on her way out, she tells him what no one else will: Vivian’s phone isn’t broken, she’s just not that into him. Then she leaves, and Vivian texts him that her phone was broken and she wants to get together again. So Jeff, like Deirdre, approaches the precipice of addressing the core issues behind his maladies and turns back instead of facing them.
Unread Text Messages
• There’s some confusion about when the show takes place. It takes place in the present; the reason the Pickles family has outdated technology is that Mr. Pickles is super controlling and wouldn’t let anyone buy anything he deemed wasteful.
• Deirdre’s gotta see that her current situation is not better for Maddy than divorce would be
• I loved Pete’s NPR apron that just said “NPR apron.” I wonder if it’s meant to set up a public radio vs. public TV showdown with Mr. Pickles.
• What was with the whistling bit at the end? And Jill sleepwalking? This show features a handful of unexplained phenomena, this episode in particular, or I just completely didn’t understand it. Which is also cool!
• A pineapple bong is awesome but it will never make an apple bong obsolete. You can’t just carry around a pineapple.