One Day at a Time
So, I noticed the structure of “One Valentine’s Day at a Time” is a rehash of the season two episode “Locked Down.” Except this time, instead of a criminal terrorizing the area, a thunderstorm forces all the main One Day at a Time characters (and a few auxiliary ones) into Casa Alvarez — on a day that Penelope wants her apartment to herself.
I don’t mind the plot recycling, because I think ODAAT is wise to regularly remind viewers of an important issue concerning Penelope: Girl never, ever gets any Me Time, and she deserves it more than anyone else. In “One Valentine’s Day at a Time,” all she’s asking for is a few hours to lounge around in a bathrobe, sip wine, read trashy magazines — and maybe sneak in a couch nap. And dammit if that doesn’t sound like heaven.
While it may be heaven in theory, it makes for one snoozer of a sitcom episode, so when everyone seeks refuge from the rain, Penelope must put her plans on hold. Again. Now, since this is a V-Day-themed episode, there is plenty of love in the air, which is great, especially when it comes to Elena and Syd. But since I only want the best for Penelope, I’m mad she had to trade in her decadent afternoon for a makeout sesh with her boring new boyfriend Mateo.
Okay, so he’s not all bad: After Penelope insists she doesn’t want to celebrate Valentine’s Day this year, Mateo tries to discreetly leave roses at her doorstep. But since Casa Alvarez had been turned into Party Central at that point (according to Lydia, if more than six people are in the apartment — Syd and Schneider’s new bae Avery tipped the scales — a party must be thrown), Mateo was invited to join the festivities and the rest of the episode’s narrative. Yippee.
Here’s my problem with this guy: Apparently, because Alex, like countless teenagers before him, got caught with marijuana, Mateo now views him as such a hooligan that he lies to Penelope about his son Sam’s whereabouts so he can shield him from her kid’s bad influence.
Yeah, it’s all part of the episode’s ongoing joke about which parent is more overprotective, but ew, Mateo. Penelope’s got this: Alex has been grounded for so long he would “kill for a cat video,” and he’s even read a whole Jane Austen novel (“For fun!”). The only reason Penelope allowed him to join Lydia and Dr. Berkowitz at the lawn-bowling tournament before it got rained out is it “seem[ed ]worse” than staying home.
I know Mateo changes his tune shortly after Penelope delivers a verbal smackdown on his judgy attitude, but I still think her day would’ve been better spent, in her words, “having a romantic time with [herself].”
Now, as for the couples I’m actually invested in, in honor of Valentine’s Day, I’ve broken their stories down into arcade love machine ratings:
Lydia and Dr. B Love Meter Reading: Frigid. Poor Doc. Lydia is still keeping him at arm’s length and reducing him to “chaperone” for her “date” with Alex to the lawn-bowling tournament. But at least she suggests they share a kiss! A Hershey’s Kiss, that is. Still, Doc’s willingness to risk anaphylactic shock from ingesting chocolate gives me hope that someday Lydia will recognize his infinite patience and open her heart to him.
Schneider and Avery Love Meter Reading: Heating Up. This might as well be called “First World Problems: A Love Story.” Schneider spends most of the episode desperately trying to hide his one-percenter status from kindergarten teacher Avery. A worthwhile challenge, seeing as how he just installed both a hot tub and a Japanese smart toilet in his apartment. He begs Penelope to teach him how to act poor (“So, how does that whole nightmare work?”), which leads to his taking Avery to the airport for Taco Bell. But even that endeavor almost blows his cover, because every time a private plane flew by, Avery noticed “the pilot would wave at Schneider like he knew him.”
Turns out all of Schneider’s chicanery was for naught. Because Avery, hiding a Dries Van Noten blouse under her schoolmarm cardigan, is wealthy too! Now they can build a relationship on the “pain” (Schneider’s word, not mine) that comes with never running out of money!
I still think they’re a cute couple, but I’m also with Penelope when she observes, “Oh, this is some bull.”
Elena and Syd Love Meter Reading: Scorching. As a straight, cisgender woman, I know I can’t fully appreciate how significant the relationship between Elena and Syd is for countless LGBTQ teens whose lack of representation on television is an ongoing battle. All I know is, I’m grateful to a cerebral TV show like ODAAT for providing audiences with such a purely romantic story line for Sylena. Yes, all relationships get complicated eventually, but there really is nothing like that warm, tingly feeling of first love, and watching it blossom between Elena and Syd is the best antidote to any breaking news alert popping up on our phones these days.
At first, their Valentine’s Day plans look like one big punchline: In her mission to not fall into the “typical corporate Valentine’s Day” trap, Elena plans “an amazing day of service” which includes participation in a heart disease 5K. (It could be worse, Syd — you could’ve been dragged to donate blood, like Dylan did with Brenda back in the 1990s.) She dresses herself and Syd in matching red tracksuits and unfortunate-looking headpieces that are supposed to look like hearts… and, I’ll let Lydia take over from here:
“Why does your head look like a butt?”
So when the rain melts the heart/butt monstrosities and turns the couple into a pair of sad-looking Carries, Syd implies they might just want a bit of that typical corporate Valentine’s Day action. Specifically if it involves dinner at Benihana. Elena, tone-deaf to the idea of anything that doesn’t have a social-justice bent, then gets her first set of valuable lessons about being with someone: Like, there are two people in a relationship, and that sometimes, your Syd-nificant Other just wants to take a magazine quiz about what color makes your eyes pop instead of saving the world.
Come on, Elena, this is how Syd asked you to Homecoming last season. You know full well they like a little romance…
…and that the best part of fighting is making up. Elena and Syd exchange their first “I love you”s, Syd apologizes for turning the moment into a cliché, and Elena delivers a sentiment that we should all be so lucky to experience at least once in our lifetime: “I’m too happy to care.”
Excuse me while I go weep with joy.
This Is The Rest!
• This episode features Rita Moreno wearing a silver, sequined turban. Do you even need more convincing to watch this show?
• Penelope may have rolled her eyes at Avery’s version of dirty talk (“Let’s pay someone else to [fix Schneider’s hot tub]”), but rich girl is on to something: The repairs to the Alvarez kitchen and dining area necessitated by Schneider’s faulty hot tub and Japanese toilet had better come out of the super’s deep pockets.