I don’t know if the Somebody Somewhere team planned to air this episode on Mother’s Day, but if not, what a perfect coincidence; if so, that’s some dark comedy right there, and I am extremely into it. For today is the day Sam and Tricia are taking their mother to a hospital in Wichita so she can be evaluated and have her psych meds adjusted after causing havoc in the nursing home she’d been staying at since her stroke. You knew this trip would be painful, and Somebody Somewhere doesn’t disappoint.
Things start terribly: Sam and Tricia get Mary Jo into the truck and realize their mother has no idea what’s happening to her — she thinks she’s being discharged and going home. Tricia decides she’ll rip off the Band-Aid and chooses the subtle tactic of … opening the passenger door and basically yelling in her mother’s face that she’s going to Wichita because she has “been a nightmare and [they] have to fix [her] meds.” It’s harsh, but maybe that’s the absolute best way to deliver tough news to someone who will be awful about it. Close that car door and you don’t have to deal with whatever kind of reaction you will get. Is that cowardly? Denial? I don’t care; life is hard enough!
The actual car ride to Wichita doesn’t get much better. It starts in wildly awkward silence, but it doesn’t take long before Mary Jo lets her anger be known. She picks fights with Sam and Tricia over, of all things, a hatred for Kansas and love of New York (she’s never been to New York), and then again goes after Tricia about her husband leaving her and Sam for never being married at all. Sam contemplates pulling into a semi-truck for a minute, but eventually she can’t hold her tongue anymore. She’s tired of listening to her mother blame her and her sister for problems of her own making. It’s not like Sam has ever been shy about speaking the truth, even the hardest ones, to her mother or telling her off when she deserves it, but something about this time feels different. Sam is exhausted by it all. It gets heated (well, as heated as this show gets): Sam reminds her mother that this is on her. She was warned if she kept drinking she could have a stroke, and it happened. She treats everyone who cares about her — especially her husband, the only one who can “tolerate” her — like shit. Apparently, Mary Jo put Ed on the no-visitors list, too. “Do you know you broke his fucking heart?” Sam yells at her mother. Things are quiet after that.
Eventually, they make it to the hospital where Mary Jo is being admitted, and a nurse takes her in. “Sometimes it’s easier to say good-bye out here,” he tells Sam and Tricia, who tell their mother they love her and hug her before she’s wheeled off. Mary Jo says nothing. In the truck, Tricia asks Sam if she thinks “the good part” of their mother will ever come back. Sam takes a beat before a simple “no.” Somebody Somewhere is such an efficient show. It can do so much with so little. In just two scenes, we see the complex emotions that come with watching a parent need help, get sick, and deteriorate in front of your eyes. The Miller girls have a complicated relationship with their mother, to say the least, and you can see everything they’re feeling in these two scenes. They’re angry and frustrated and tired but also heartbroken and scared. None of what Sam and Tricia are going through here is easy, and this episode captures every layer of it.
“Keys Phone Cash ID” also shows us how dealing with their parents is changing Sam and Tricia’s relationship. They are worlds apart from where they were when we first met them. There’s much more trust between them and, dare I say, some pride emanating from Sam? Am I referring to a scene about Tricia possibly starting a Lying Cunt Pillow empire? You bet your big and juicy cunt I am. Since Amy Sedaris reposted Tricia’s pillow on Instagram, her phone has been blowing up with orders. Tricia is angsting about it. “I can’t talk about this at church,” she says, and I laughed so hard. “This is not who I am,” she tells Sam when Sam tries to make her see what a huge thing this could be for her. “But it is,” she reminds her sister because she made the pillow in the first place. It is who Tricia is, “and it’s fucking glorious,” Sam tells her. Has Sam ever been this proud of her sister? Probably not. She offers to help her build this empire — Princess Cunt; Cunt Crew; Live, Laugh, Cunt (my personal favorite) — and since Tricia got fired from the grocery store for showing up drunk the day she and Sam were chugging Chardonnay in the parking lot, she should really consider it. A Miller sister team-up sounds so nice after everything they’ve been through.
Even in the quick scene back at the farm, you can feel the change. After another letter from their dad, complete with an unhinged doodle of a cow, the girls run into Fred and Susan — Fred wants to show her the farm. Susan calls it “magical,” and while both Sam and Tricia might not choose that exact word, you can see how much they both love this place. Then Sam has an idea: Fred and Susan should get married there. Fred and Susan think it’s perfect. You can tell how much Tricia loves the idea too. Sam and Tricia — a real tag team these days.
It’s a good thing Sam is building a relationship outside of her one with Joel. Not that Joel’s going anywhere, but he does spend his entire day with Brad. He basically stalks him at his church (he saw on his tote bag on Darlene’s porch one day) and makes up a silly story about pulling over to text, but after taking Brad up on his offer for a piece of gum and a walk, Joel comes clean. He just wanted to see Brad again. It’s all very sweet, and they seem like a great match. Joel, quite quickly, feels like he can open up to Brad about his crisis of faith, and he’s right to; Brad seems like the perfect sounding board for Joel. Even Brad’s tie tucked into his pants is somehow endearing! The problem here doesn’t have anything to do with Brad, really. The problem is that after a long day, when Sam comes home and asks Joel what he was up to, Joel lies. He doesn’t mention Brad at all. Maybe he’s worried Sam will make fun of him for having a thing for SLS, or maybe he’s worried Sam might get upset when she learns Joel has somebody new in his life and that he’s moving forward with a romantic relationship. Joel realizes how much Sam relies on him. I’m not saying her codependency is healthy, but it’s certainly something Joel wants to handle with care. Obviously, the Brad stuff will come to light, and Sam and Joel will have to deal with what that means for their friendship head-on. For now, though, they’ll just drink their tini-tinis and eat their doughnuts and laugh their asses off, as best buds do.
• When Brad invites Joel to come to church with him if he ever wants to, Joel replies, “I’d love to come with you sometime.” You can see him holding back his own laughter — he doesn’t have his partner-in-crime to laugh along with him.
• Another way you can see the anxiety about her mother taking a toll on Sam: She makes Joel promise that if she starts to turn out like Mary Jo, Joel needs to put her out of her misery. He promises to smother her with a pillow if it comes to that. He is a good friend.
• In one of the establishing shots at the park, there’s a “Hagerty Construction” sign, another homage to the late Mike Hagerty.
• Wait, is Sam just never going back to voice lessons with Darlene?
• Brad should be a life coach. He fully admits to Joel that he’s a terrible singer, but says, “Who cares? I love it.” He also loves that the younger kids see someone older trying something new and being brave, etc. I mean, this is the way to live life, people. Brad may unwittingly inflict disastrous diarrhea upon the general public, but otherwise, the man knows what’s up.