overnights

One Day at a Time Recap: Heels Over Head

One Day At A Time

Benefit With Friends
Season 3 Episode 3
Editor’s Rating *****

One Day At A Time

Benefit With Friends
Season 3 Episode 3
Editor’s Rating *****
Photo: Ali Goldstein/Netflix

After the one-two punch of “The Funeral” and “Outside,” One Day at a Time’s third episode of the new season settles down to do some housekeeping. Namely, catch viewers up on two of the biggest unresolved threads from the second-season finale, “Not Yet”: The state of Lydia’s health and Penelope’s love life.

Although Lydia’s near-death experience is touched upon several times in the season-three premiere, it serves more as comic relief, which hardly does justice to the tremendous performances delivered by every member of the ODAAT cast in “Not Yet.” So I commend the show for getting serious about almost losing its linchpin, Rita Moreno, in “Benefit With Friends,” because it’s no laughing matter.

As for Penelope….Sigh, this is a tough one. I understand why she broke things off with her hunky, EMT boyfriend Max last season (he wanted kids of his own; she was done reproducing, and she loved him too much to deny him the joy of fatherhood), but I’m still mourning that relationship, because it was a good one. And I’m just not feeling it with Penelope’s new love interest, Mateo (Alex Quijano), a dad from her kids’ school. This guy’s adorkable wardrobe — I’m talking cargo shorts, polo shirt, Crocs and tube socks — has more personality than the actual character. I know Penelope deserves to be with someone who has already checked the “parenthood” box, but at least she and Max had chemistry. Thank u, next.

You know who I am feeling? Schneider and St. Bibiana’s kindergarten teacher/typewriter-clacking poet Avery (India de Beaufort), whose hipster meet-cute at Elena and Alex’s school fundraiser really should’ve taken place in the Portlandia universe. These two are so sickeningly sweet together — which may have a little something to do with the fact that de Beaufort is Todd Grinnell’s wife IRL — that suddenly I feel lazy for not making my own paper out of recycled phone books. And anyone who can single-handedly break the cycle of Schneider’s annual hookup with awful class mom Nikki (Jolie Jenkins) — someone so hard-up she offers Schneider a threesome with Avery as incentive — must be a very special woman indeed.

For the third season in a row, ODAAT has rewarded viewers with an opening sequence featuring a pajama-clad Moreno dancing. Except this time, Elena puts the kibosh on these 20 magnificent seconds because it turns out those salsa moves her abuelita was showing off in the season-three premiere were against the doctor’s orders. The reality is, Lydia is now on blood thinners and needs to use a cane. Though the jury is still out on what exactly happened to Lydia at the end of last season: In “Not Yet,” Penelope explains that her mother had surgery to prevent a stroke and was in a medically induced coma. However, in “The Funeral,” there are numerous lines of dialogue claiming Lydia did indeed have a stroke, so it’s best that we let the dubious details lie and just work with the knowledge that she’s a woman in her 70s whose health is not at 100 percent.

Basically, this episode is about Elena playing bad cop to ensure her grandmother sticks around for the next few decades — and Lydia, who refuses to grow old gracefully, thwarting her granddaughter’s efforts at every turn. This means we are treated to Moreno delivering Bible-inspired jokes like, “Why should I have to use a cane when I am so able?” and the glorious sight of the EGOT winner treating her (bedazzled) cane like a hobby horse and clippity-clopping around the Alvarez apartment.

But nothing could be worse than Elena’s destruction of Lydia’s signature entrances and exits. In her attempt to lower her abuelita’s stress levels, Elena hooks Lydia’s curtains up to a remote control. Now, instead of being able to wrench the curtains shut (like when Elena orders her to stop wearing high heels because she’s prone to dizzy spells), Lydia must wait for them to close on their own, killing her dramatic vibe.

Later, at the St. Bibiana’s fundraiser, Lydia and Elena engage in a game of cat and mouse: While Elena thinks her grandmother is auctioning off knitting lessons and wearing flats, she’s secretly sporting her “emergency” heels and offering dance classes. What’s even more disconcerting — though completely in tune with his character — is the fact that Dr. Leslie Berkowitz (Stephen Tobolowsky), who’s helping Lydia at the auction and is, oh right, a doctor, goes along with her health-endangering scheme.

In a surprise to absolutely no one, Lydia twists her ankle after executing both a Rockette kick and a flamenco combination, necessitating a heart-to-heart with Elena back home. Lydia may have recovered from her hospital stay, but both she and her granddaughter are still consumed with residual anguish. Elena admits that she hasn’t slept since her abuelita was released, while Lydia is now fighting a daily battle against her own mortality. “Once the heels go, what’s next?” she worries. “I don’t want to put them on a shelf and remember who I was.”

She goes on to explain to Elena that maintaining her identity through a pair of sparkly high heeled shoes isn’t as shallow as one may think. Lydia wants to be like her own grandmother, who remained a “strong” and “elegant” woman, “despite living in a world that is not always beautiful.”

(Something tells me Lydia is talking more about 2019 America than the Cuban Revolution with that statement.)

Elena gets it, but reminds Lydia that she too has a “really strong abuelita — and [wants] to keep her strong.” So, they reach a compromise: Lydia will wear shoes with “a slightly lower heel.” And when Elena suggests some cane usage? “Take the win,” Lydia claps back.

Still, Elena’s well-intentioned efforts weren’t entirely in vain. The next morning, Lydia emerges from behind her curtains — the remote control (and the cane) now conveniently broken — to announce a new project. Instead of a “bucket list,” Lydia has created a “bouquet list.”

“It’s an arrangement of all the beautiful things you still want to do before you kick the bucket.”

Not yet, Lydia. Not yet. Elena at least deserves time to explain the Star Wars movies beyond “A long, long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away.”

This Is The Rest!

• Just because it’s not a major plotline in an episode doesn’t mean Penelope isn’t still pursuing her nurse practitioner certification. ODAAT has been very good about slipping in scenes of her studying, like at the end of “Benefit With Friends.”

• Nikki continues to teach master classes in How to Be an Odious Person. Sample line: “I’m just going to say it. I miss Matt Lauer.”

• I may have spent an inordinate amount of time pausing my screener to examine all of the items on Schneider’s auction table (he’s offering “Handyman for a day” services). There are multiple tool belts and multiple portraits — not of Schneider’s handiwork, of course. Of Schneider.

One Day at a Time Recap: Heels Over Head