One Day at a Time
The bright spot that is One Day at a Time has left us all too soon. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the sitcom’s sixth episode of season four, “Supermoon,” has unwittingly turned into a mid-season finale, making its final minutes considerably more emotional than I assume writer Erin Foley originally intended.
Although all 13 scripts have been written, less than half of the episodes were shot before COVID-19 shut down the entertainment industry as we know it, leaving ODAAT’s long-term future up in the air once again. As I’ve written before, this series has been a soothing balm for our weary souls over the past six weeks. To see it ripped away from us before it was finished telling its stories this season is a setback on our path to recovery.
But I’ve also written about ODAAT’s resilience in the face of adversity, which is likely why the song that kept coming back to me while writing this recap is the optimistic World War II-era tune “We’ll Meet Again”: Earlier today, Pop TV announced that ODAAT will return this spring in the form of a one-off animated special, with the cast providing their characters’ voices. If ODAAT can beat a Netflix cancellation, it can withstand the coronavirus.
“Supermoon” takes place on the evening of a, you guessed it, supermoon, where everyone takes a turn delighting in its romantic glow — and we the audience must figure out why Schneider turned the building’s rooftop into an intimate love den.
What struck me the most about this episode is how it eschews the typical sitcom trope by not concluding with a marriage proposal, despite everyone being happily coupled up (you can interpret that however you want with regard to Lydia and Dr. Berkowitz). While Avery and Schneider seem the most poised to head down that road eventually, from a storytelling standpoint, it would’ve been too many life changes too fast; Avery just announced her pregnancy two episodes ago, after all.
I’m also glad that “Supermoon” dispenses with the Avery-Schneider possibility within the first few minutes. As Schneider is putting the finishing touches on the rooftop — comfy love seat, candles, flowers, a sign reading “Together Forever” (our first clue! The couple in question are Rick Astley fans!) — Avery arrives to compliment her handsome handyman. The rest of the scene is one massive fake-out: They gush over their abundance of love and wealth, Avery promises to stay “forever,” Schneider expresses gratitude that she sees him for who he is, he gets down on one knee …
But that’s just to clean up his tools. Before vacating the area, Avery remarks, “They’re going to love it.”
Definitely not the teen couples, although their time sampling the rooftop splendor is no less endearing. Elena and Syd have a beautifully nerdy date in which I was pleased to learn that the scientific term for “supermoon” is “perigee syzygy” — and that watching the new episode of Batwoman heals any awkward conversation about crushes. Alex and Nora have a three-month anniversary to celebrate, but their preempted makeout sesh subtly continues ODAAT’s ongoing exploration of Alex’s own demons, caused by his parents’ contentious divorce. He’s showing early signs of intimacy fears, and while it’s played for laughs, with Alex envisioning a future as “a single mother struggling to have it all,” I applaud ODAAT for shedding light on this issue in the first place. Even more so for giving Alex such a kind, patient, and understanding girlfriend like Nora.
At Casa Alvarez, Elena and Alex have a post-date debriefing, convinced that the tricked-out rooftop was Max’s idea and that he’s about to propose to their mom. If that’s the case, then Penelope is none the wiser given that her date prep consists of not changing out of her quarantine chic (read: sweats) and a DGAF attitude toward a year-old cup of chocolate pudding.
What happens next during Max and Penelope’s rooftop supermoon date is yet another example of ODAAT’s mastery in presenting a woman taking ownership of her life choices. Upon noticing the engagement-worthy layout, Penelope unleashes a string of emphatic refusals rivaling Pamela Adlon’s Better Things “No!” monologue. Good news is, Max wasn’t responsible for the rooftop setup either, nor was he about to propose. Though he is now super-curious as to why Penelope just did “a one-woman show about the word ‘no.’”
She explains that just as she decided not to have any more children, she’s also chosen to never get married again. It’s a constant reminder for the audience that while Penelope’s ex-husband Victor may have gotten his life together, he left some irreparable scars in his wake.
The best part of Penelope dropping this latest truth bomb is, not only is Max cool with not having children, but marriage isn’t even on the table for him anymore. He loves Penelope, but he also loves his new Doctors Without Borders job, which means he’ll be out of town a lot. For the foreseeable future. When Penelope realizes their relationship will be partially long-distance, her reaction of “That’s like my dream!” is the greatest middle finger to traditional sitcom relationships I’ve ever seen.
As they lovingly affirm their commitment to each other, Elena and Alex barge onto the roof to offer their congratulations. When Penelope and Max announce they’re not getting married, Alex brings up the suspected deal-breaker: “It was the sweatpants, right?”
The only characters left who could still be the recipients of Schneider’s handiwork are the unlikely twosome of Lydia and Dr. B, making this the ideal time for them to show up. They are both suspiciously dressed for a special occasion, with Lydia elegant in white and Dr. B dapper in a dark suit. An excited Schneider and Avery enter soon afterward, and now Penelope is completely confused. I am too, but that’s just because this scene features seven people who don’t live in the same domicile gathering together.
The big reveal here is that when Lydia and Dr. B arrived in Cuba, it no longer felt like home, so Lydia didn’t feel right scattering her late husband Berto’s ashes there anymore. She then explains to Penelope, Elena, and Alex that Berto wanted his final resting place to be at home — and that home is where they are. In a quiet, moving ceremony that may or may not have elicited a few tears from this writer, Penelope, Alex, Elena, and Lydia each say a few words honoring their father/grandfather/husband before spreading Berto’s remains among the flora.
True to form, Schneider steps forward to pay his respects as well (“Papi, Papi, Papi”). In that moment, right before we cut to the credits, he becomes every heavy-hearted ODAAT fan when Penelope tells him, “We’re done.”
For now, Penelope. For now.
This Is the Rest!
• Syd plans to attend Quinnipiac University, a.k.a. “The Yale of Connecticut.” Who’s going to tell them?
• In addition to the upcoming animated special, here’s another idea for the interim: Dovetailing off the ODAAT-in-quarantine video the cast shot back in March, I’d be game for a web series chronicling Avery and Schneider’s pregnancy journey. The plausibility factor is in the actors’ favor because India de Beaufort and Todd Grinnell are a real-life married couple isolating together. And Stephen Tobolowsky’s Dr. B can conduct telehealth visits via Zoom!