The theme is chickens: Jackie wants to raise them, Becky’s being one.
Jackie’s latest off-the-wall idea involves getting a permit for Dan to build a chicken coop in the Conner backyard, so Jackie can raise a mess of chickens. Irritated as Dan is with the project, he goes along with it after Jackie gets Mary and Mark to beg their grandpa to build the structure so they can have a pet. But Jackie’s real motivation isn’t about providing the family with eggs or chicken dinners or poultry pets named Cornflakes.
She’s worried that, for the last 40 years, Dan has only tolerated her constant presence in his home because Roseanne wanted her around. Without Roseanne, Jackie figures, she needs another excuse for her pop-ins. Dan won’t want to tend to the chickens himself, so he’ll need her help on a daily basis. That such a nutty and random idea was the spark for her to get her brother-in-law to admit he’d miss her if she weren’t around is just the latest bit of lackluster writing for Jackie, who continues to be the worst-served character in the Roseanne-reboot universe.
I guess the intention was to call back to a classic Roseanne moment — a go-to move the writers have carried out fairly well in last year’s reboot and in The Conners so far. This time, it’s Roseanne season two’s “An Officer and a Gentleman,” when Jackie and Dan unexpectedly bonded as Jackie helped take care of Dan and the kids when Roseanne had to go out of town to help her father when he broke his leg. Dan was so impressed and touched by Jackie’s care that he told her how much he genuinely cared for her, and urged her to stop dating men who weren’t worthy of her affections. The chemistry between John Goodman and Laurie Metcalf was intense, and the in-laws ever-so-briefly flirted with becoming even closer, until a phone call from Roseanne brought them back to reality.
Jackie’s cuckoo chicken plot tries to take us back there, and the nice moment when she hugs Dan for admitting — or rather, agreeing with her when she says it — that he’d miss her is as close as we’ve gotten to seeing Jackie’s wackier antics spliced with some of her more rational ones.
As for Becky, the realities of being a single mom with a drinking problem are pushing her into a panic. She is visited by Andrea, the woman who wanted Becky to be her surrogate during the Roseanne reboot. Andrea (played by “Becky 2,” Sarah Chalke) now has a child, but even with her money and resources and nannies, she tells Becky she’s unhappy, and drained by motherhood. This news makes Becky’s situation seem even bleaker to her, and her automatic reaction is to take a drink of alcohol. She spits out the candy-cane margarita before it goes any further, but she’s overwhelmed enough to tell her friends Maria and Bridgette that she’s going to allow them to adopt the baby.
But a family-bonding session even more rare than Dan and Jackie’s changes Becky’s mind. Still unsettled after sharing her decision with Maria and Bridgette, Becky wakes Darlene up at 2 a.m. and tells her what she decided to do about the baby, and why. Darlene hadn’t realized, or maybe just hadn’t acknowledged, the seriousness of Becky’s problem with alcohol. Still, she assures her sister that no matter what, their family will help with the baby. They will help Becky before and after the baby is born to stay sober. Darlene tells her sister she’s stronger than she thinks she is, and they toast each other, with mugs of coffee.
“Thank you for not being a judgmental little troll for once,” Becky says.
Things are looking up all around for Darlene. Becky tells her she’s never felt closer to her, and her relationship with new boss Ben is quickly heating up. Darlene tells Ben about a sexist customer who’s bothering her at her casino waitressing gig, and when they touch as he demonstrates a self-defense move she can use, their attraction to each other is obvious.
Later, Ben surprises her at the casino, and she teases him that it’s a boyfriend kinda thing to do. Ben’s arrival inspires Darlene to toss a drink in the face of her creepy customer, and turn in her uniform.
Well, Ben’s arrival, and the fact that “you’re giving me a raise and medical,” she tells him.
• Crystal has come out of retirement and returned to her job as a waitress at the casino. She had planned to travel, but tells Darlene she changed her mind when she realized she was frightened by meeting people different from her.
• “So, maybe stick to the Cracker Barrel, and you’ll be fine,” Darlene suggests.