This episode is one of my favorites, because it’s one of the few times in the series that both Dan and Roseanne let their guards (and jokes) come down and express frankly how much they care for each other. It’s also one of the first times we get a glimpse at the positive effect Roseanne can have on people.
It opens in the kitchen, where Roseanne is cutting DJ’s hair. Jackie reads a headline to Roseanne, “Woman Stabs Husband 37 Times.” However, even funnier is that the headline on the front of the paper reads “Husby Glues Gabby Wife’s Mouth Shut.” Seems like he deserved it, then!
Roseanne and Dan are going out for date night! They’re going to the Lanford Inn, a hotspot that will host many other events over the course of the show. It’s meant to sound like a fancy-schmancy place, requiring Dan to shave and slap on a tie, and yet they offer a two-for-one coupon. Then they arrive and there’s this buffet, offered in full-size boat, oars and all:
So it’s unclear exactly what caliber of place this is. I suppose the contradiction comes from the fact that this is the swankiest place in what is supposed to be a rather dumpy town.
As they prepare for their date, Darlene smears mascara on her cheeks, prompting Becky to say she looks like a vampire. Roseanne asks her to put down the mascara or she’ll “drive a stake right through her heart.” Then, amazingly, a rare moment when I actually like Becky:
She ruins the moment by then lecturing Roseanne on her ability to apply makeup. Jackie is late to babysit, naturally, and Becky begs to babysit. Roseanne agrees to let her if Jackie doesn’t show up, and for some reason Darlene is also pleased by this development — odd, since Darlene hates her sister and shouldn’t want her to be in charge?
Dan and Roseanne trade some jokes that will end up being recurring– whenever one compliments the other in the third person, they deflect, i.e. “Your special girl, who is she?” or “I’m madly in love with my husband.” “Is he bigger than me?”
As the couple leaves for dinner, the kids run to their bedroom, prompting Dan to storm in and yell “Stay out of our dresser drawers!” I have to admit, I have no idea what this joke is about. As a kid I was never particularly interested in what my parents owned or stored in their room– what are they keeping in their dresser that would be so interesting? Or is kids snooping in their parents’ stuff a normal activity and one that I just obliviously missed out on?
As the scene shifts to the Lanford Inn, we’re treated to the most deliciously awkward sequence as this woman (later revealed to be Patsy) and her date sit on bar stools and awkwardly sway to the music, Patsy smiling in embarrassment for lack of anything else to do in this establishing shot.
As it turns out, Patsy’s date is not her husband Bob, much to the Conners’ gossipy excitement. She comes over to say hello, and it turns out they divorced because she’s going back to college.
This revelation leads to a really classic scene between Roseanne and Dan. They joke about why they should divorce (he hangs his dirty underwear on the doorknob, she shaves her legs with his razor), and there’s a lot of great banter.
It’s fightin’ that keeps a marriage together.” “If that’s true, you and me will be together forever.”
But it’s not until Patsy returns and reveals that the reason she went to college is because Roseanne inspired her, with her big dreams of being a writer, that things get serious. “If nothing’s going to stop Roseanne,” she says, “then nothing’s going to stop me.”
This is a powerful moment in the series, for a few reasons. One is that it’s the first time the audience really gets to see what a hero Roseanne is, and the effect she can have on those around her. This is a woman who knows what she wants, and will stop at nothing to get it/protect it. She is brave, and fierce, and cool under pressure. She hasn’t been dealt a great hand, but she makes the most of what she’s got and has built a loving home for her family. Patsy is the first of many women to be inspired by Roseanne over the course of the show– but she will go on to win many more admirers and followers, especially when she leads the women of Wellman Plastics to quit their unfair jobs.
The other reason is because this conversation leads to one of the few moments in which both Dan and Roseanne are completely frank and genuine with each other. No jokes, no dismissiveness, just complete honesty about how they feel about each other. Dan worries that he’s holding Roseanne back from her dreams, and that she’ll leave him. Roseanne replies, “I’m here because I want to be. I love you.”
The audience, knowing this is a special moment, Awwwwws. Dan asks her to dance, prompting another Awwww from the audience. What follows is a very sweet embrace that may or may not have choked me up for half a second. I’m hard-pressed to think of another time these two are so straightforward with each other about their feelings, and I think it was important that this moment occur early on in the series to lay the foundation for their marriage.
Back in the B-plot at home, Jackie finally shows up, only to not be allowed in and receive a bunch of sass from the kids. Boy, they’re getting a lot of mileage out of DJ delivering one- or two-word lines in his baby voice.
Now, anyone familiar with this show knows the Conners love Halloween. I’ll save that discussion for the Halloween episode, but part of their love for that holiday is elaborate set ups in order to scare each other. This episode features the first time a character excitedly scares the family, when Jackie sneaks up behind the kids and shrieks her head off. (Darlene and Becky react appropriately, DJ sort of giggles and looks out at the audience/crew. Okay, so Fishman ain’t perfect.)
So far in the series the kids haven’t had much to do. They basically all have taken B-plots behind Roseanne and Dan. That’s for the best, really, because once they each start getting their own plotlines, things get a little weird.
For now, though, they’re comedic filler while we get to enjoy some really special moments with Dan and Roseanne. This episode is sort of an early turning point from generic sitcom gags to their first episode with a little more narrative meat, and a great message in the end: Sure, I could be out conquering the world, but I want to be here with you.
– What the heck is this clear stuff on the floor? This stuff lines that hallway for the entire series, and I’ve never seen it in a real household. Is this a normal thing people put on their carpets? To protect them? Was there some sort of tripping hazard in that area? It’s a mystery!