The longer we remain in isolation, the harder it gets to compartmentalize our pre-pandemic existence with our current reality. Now that we’re a few episodes in to One Day at a Time’s fourth season, the first six episodes of which were written and shot before COVID-19 dominated every facet of our lives, plotlines involving climate change, or even bringing new life into the world, take on a more sobering quality now than I’m sure the writers originally intended.
That’s not to say ODAAT doesn’t continue to be one of the best weekly respites available. The jokes remain on point (and, in a few instances, still topical), and whatever trepidation I initially had about Avery and Schneider’s news, it didn’t stop a warm and fuzzy feeling from lingering after the episode ended. It helps that this is a Halloween episode, which tends to allow for more wiggle room in the playfulness department. There aren’t any magical elements involved — other than the mist that accompanies Avery and Schneider’s Game of Thrones–inspired costumes — but this kind of setup permits viewers to let their coronavirus guard down for 30 minutes.
Besides, it’s just nice to see people enjoying a holiday together that doesn’t involve Zoom. In the case of “One Halloween at a Time,” that means we get to marvel at everyone’s couples’ costumes, crack an easily solvable mystery, and be deliriously content along with a now-reunited Penelope and Max.
While everyone else is preparing for a night of sugar-fueled whimsy, Elena and Syd are gearing up for some door-to-door social activism. Instead of trick-or-treating, they’re going around dressed as Greta Thunberg (Elena, complete with a “skolstrejk för klimatet” sign) and a melting iceberg (Syd, complete with a stuffed polar bear tied around their waist). Their mission? Dropping climate-change truths on their unsuspecting neighbors.
On the other side of the spectrum, we have Avery and Schneider, whose only pressing issue is winning a country-club costume contest. In all fairness to Avery, the pressure is coming from her boyfriend, who whines that he never wins anything and that he wants an iPad mini. Cue Elena (and anyone else watching): “You’re a rich, straight, cisgender white dude — you won at life!”
Because Schneider and Avery won at life, they’re able to make three ornate attempts at first prize: Goat Yoga (Avery = yogi; Schneider = goat, though he looks more like a centaur), Drag Race (Avery = race-car driver; Schneider = a taped-and-tucked Marilyn Monroe with facial hair), and, finally, the aforementioned GoT look.
Alex and Nora don’t do the costume thing, but Alex’s decision to dye his hair silver backfires so spectacularly that he winds up having a scarier Halloween than anyone else: His new look reminds Lydia of her late husband, Berto, prompting her to dress Alex up as his own grandfather so the two of them can have a creepy date night. Fortunately, Alex is allowed to escape to a party at Nora’s house, with the promise that he’s “home in time to spoon my grandmother.”
But as Lydia discovers, apparently there’s been more than spooning going on at the Alvarez home. She finds a positive pregnancy test among the trash, right when Penelope is on the phone firming up plans with Max for the evening. In typical sitcom fashion, Lydia misunderstands her daughter’s use of the terms “positive” and “100 percent sure” (she was talking about having enough candy for trick-or-treaters) and deduces that Penelope is with child.
We’ll get back to this subplot soon enough. Right now, let’s bask in the adorable: Penelope and Max as the leather-clad Sandy and Danny from Grease. If their Four Corners moves don’t have you firing up the 1978 classic, Penelope’s statement that “every teenager in that movie was pushing 40” will.
While Penelope and Max are figuring out whether their underage Halloween personas are sexually inappropriate, Lydia, dressed as Belle from Beauty and the Beast, is spilling the tea about her daughter’s alleged pregnancy to her Beast, Dr. Berkowitz. (“I never saw the movie. I thought it was about a beautiful woman and her pet dog in a tuxedo,” says Lydia, upon learning that she unwittingly chose a couples’ costume.)
Speaking of beverages, Lydia also nearly spills a perfectly good glass of wine when she spots Penelope about to imbibe one with Max. Swooping in like an alcoholic superhero — whose catchphrase is “Chardonnay is not for babies!” and whose superpower is chugging down white wine — Lydia rescues her imaginary unborn grandchild.
Penelope wastes no time shutting down her mother’s presumption. But the pregnancy test was found in her kitchen trash, so she has to assume it belongs to one of her kids. Working off the same amount of evidence as Lydia (i.e., very little), Penelope and Max go to Nora’s house, where things go from awkward to cringeworthy within minutes. First, Penelope has to teach her white boyfriend that screaming, “Me llamo es Max!” to a Hispanic couple is not going to endear him to them. (I’m speaking from experience, Max. Staahhp.) Then she has to confront Alex about the pregnancy test in front of Nora and her parents (dressed as the “Tethered” from Us, nice), forcing the teen couple to admit through clenched teeth that they haven’t slept together.
Halloween doesn’t exactly go as planned for ODAAT’s other teen couple, Sylena, either. Reggie Watts mistakes their “Thunberg and Iceberg” for Anna and Olaf, and legendary Norman Lear sitcom alum Marla Gibbs thinks they’re “Dorothy and the tornado.” Syd and Elena’s political statements may have fallen flat, but they also can’t argue with people voluntarily giving out full-size chocolate bars. “Who knew Halloween was fun?,” a gleeful Syd observes.
With Penelope nowhere closer to figuring out who in her inner circle is expecting (at this point, I wrote in my notes: “HOW DO YOU NOT KNOW IT’S AVERY BY NOW?”), she presents the pregnancy test to Elena, who answers in the best way possible: “How many times do you want me to come out?”
Oh, look, Penelope: Here come two members of your family (like it or not, they are) you never thought to consider: Avery, now dressed as Daenerys Targaryen, and Schneider, as one of her dragons/*cough* babies *cough.* While Schneider pouts over their second-place win, a smiling Avery modestly affirms to Penelope that the test is hers and in a lovely ugly-cry moment is silently surrounded by an overjoyed ODAAT cast.
Schneider’s reaction to the news — “This is so much better than an iPad mini” — is just as touching, because his affinity for luxury items aside, he’s now one step closer to creating the family he’s dreamed of all his life. Most important, he’s reminded that he has plenty of tíos and tías ready to help, which I can also tell you from experience is more valuable currency to expectant parents than boatloads of cash.
As Max would put it, Si mucho Halloween!
This Is the Rest!
May Lydia’s line about how Donald Trump is “like a pumpkin — he’ll get thrown out in November” be a prophetic one.
Anyone else notice the number on Marla Gibbs’s door? It was 227.
I volunteer Schneider to give Dr. B Spanish lessons. That “Dee-us Mee-o” is more egregious than “Hola” with a pronounced “H.”