The foundation for their romance having been laid in the last episode, this episode’s main arc is Booker and Jackie’s flirting and “friendly wager.” As a result, we get treated to some classic Clooney charm, and some confounding she-wore-that? fashion as the gang goes bowling.
It’s the perfect exercise. Six seconds of exercise, drink beer for half an hour.”
After much maligning from Jackie and Crystal, Roseanne promises on “bowler’s honor” that she won’t screw around.
Jackie’s not the only one with romantic entanglements tonight– Becky is getting all dolled up because her boyfriend Chip works at the bowling alley. Apparently, this is what constitutes “all dressed up” in the 80’s:
This… chunky cardigan, embroidered blouse buttoned up to the chin, and brooch that I think my grandmother might have worn are apparently ~*~*~high fashion~*~*~! Her outfit causes Roseanne to ask, “Are we gonna be working the lounge tonight?” So… cocktail waitresses dressed like this? I don’t know, I realize the 80’s and early 90’s were a weird time for fashion but I think maybe the costume designers didn’t read the script before this was shot.
By the way, since it’s in the cap above – the Godzilla on the mantel/shelf is a recurring thing in this show. He appears in the background of nearly every episode of the show, and I actually don’t know why– on the commentary to one of the episodes on the DVD box set, Roseanne starts to explain it, gets distracted by a joke, and never fully explains how that came to be, except that it was a gag and it was always there. So, now you know to look for Godzilla! (In googling this to confirm I remembered it right, I learned that Home Improvement also occasionally participated in this gag, so if you ever decide to start a review-every-episode-of-Home-Improvement blog, keep an eye out!)
Becky is actually pretty relatable in this episode– who hasn’t been embarrassed by their family at some time or another, or begged their parents to disassociate from them when friends are nearby? Becky, upon learning that Darlene has spilled the beans on Chip, begs them not to embarrass her.
Please, if you really love me you’ll pretend you’re not my parents!”
The gang gets to the bowling alley, and in a completely classic and perfect moment of foreshadowing, Roseanne gives Becky a few dollars to entertain herself and remarks, “Don’t elope with this.” Of course, in the not too distant future Becky will do just that. I find that completely fantastic– one off-handed joke in the first season of the show, and it ends up being the character’s biggest dramatic arc of the series. Tangentially related, my favorite example of this happened on Parks & Rec, wherein Leslie’s terrible date Chris gives her an MRI and notes that she has a womb large enough to carry triplets on the first try– 4 seasons later, she and Ben get pregnant with triplets. P&R was all about the jokes and callbacks like that.
At the bowling alley, Booker proposes a friendly wager to Jackie– if he wins, she’ll spend the night at his place. Jackie ups the ante– if she wins, he’ll spend the night at her place, scrubbing the bathroom. At this point I feel compelled to reach through the screen and shake her– give in, you fool! Look at this man!
Crystal spends the whole evening being a wet blanket. I don’t know, I don’t really have anything else to say about it. Okay, yes I do. What is her deal??? She just goes around nagging everyone and being miserable. Get it together, Crystal. LOOK at this face, Crystal!
I can’t even make fun of your hair, Crystal. It’s all just too easy.
Meanwhile, Dan is racking up the strikes, and inexplicably the audience cheers every time he knocks one down. Sorry, I mean, every time he dances around and looks pleased in order to demonstrate that, off-screen, he has knocked them down. The audience is super into this game. They want Dan, who is not actually competing with anyone, by the way, to totally crush it. Or they were super pumped to be at a live TV-show recording, I don’t know. Sitcoms were different then.
Roseanne gets the scoop on Chip from Darlene, and we cut to a shot of him… squirting ketchup from one bottle into another bottle. Atta boy, Chip. That’s why they pay you the big bucks, champ.
Self-starter Chip now added to the tableau, we as an audience are gifted with glorious, glorious Clooney butt:
Actually, I don’t know, maybe it’s a cute butt? It’s so hard to tell in the baggy 80’s jeans. Speaking of which, here’s another example of 80’s fashion! (This episode is loaded with it, y’all.)
No wonder Booker is into her. Who could resist those suspenders?
Becky, meanwhile, is afraid to talk to Chip, and things are awkward until they connect over how much their parents suck. So of course, Roseanne comes over and is totally cool. Instead of embarrassing her, she pretends not to know Becky while she learns a little more about Chip, then gives him a tip on the snacks. Chip is super impressed with his 50-cent tip because… okay, because you saw the bottle thing, right? Enough said.
The next bit is fairly inconsequential but I feel like I have to talk about it because it’s just so… odd. And bad. And it’s Crystal, who is just the embodiment of a mopey question mark to me, so here we go. Crystal does this bit where she disconsolately drops the ball, watches it hit the gutter, then sadly flops back into her seat, where her son comforts her. Okay, a few things here. First, this entire bit has no set up at all. Why is Crystal sad? Not a clue. Second, because there’s no set up here, and thus no joke, the whole bit plays to silence from the audience. There’s at least 30 seconds of just silence as she does this, and then someone else comes on with a line and the episode rolls on. Lastly, I’m at least 90% sure that her son (Donny, I want to say? Lonny? Something like that) has not been introduced. I think he’s only even been mentioned once, completely offhand, like three episodes ago in a throwaway line. So the effect as she slumps down and he comforts her, from the bench behind her, is that some random kid has taken pity on this miserable woman and patted her on the shoulder. Seriously, no one could have thrown in a line earlier on mentioning who the heck he was to prevent this?
At least a full minute later Lonny/Ronny/rando kid explains that this earlier sequence was because she only bowled a 97. It’s too late now to give the setup for the bit! That is some seriously awkward writing, and frankly out of character for a show that sets them up and knocks them down so rapidly usually.
Booker wins the bowling game, but decides not to have Jackie over. “Not tonight,” he says, “not on a bet.” The audience loves this, or at least one guy who claps really hard by himself does. That Booker is all class.
Roseanne closes the action, after all her fooling around and getting a score of 7, by getting a strike. It’s easy, all she has to do is pretend the pins are the kids and the bowling ball is Dan’s head.
The thing I love about this episode, and a lot of episodes of this show, is that there isn’t a conflict. There isn’t, really, a plot. We’re basically treated to a night with the Conners, and it’s funny and enjoyable and you hardly even notice that nothing of substance has transpired. Sure, there’s subplots for Becky/Chip and Jackie/Booker, but the main action is just Dan, Roseanne, and the gang hanging out and hitting us with jokes. It works because this is a group that everyone would really like to hang out with (save for Crystal), and it just feels natural and fun. I admire this show both for creating characters that can pull this off, and for having the good sense to sit back and let them do it instead of manufacturing conflict every single week.
I also love this episode because it has some of the best bits between Roseanne and John Goodman. I’ve talked before about physicality on this show, and the actors’ willingness to get rough and tumble to make it feel real. This episode is a great example, as the final act is Dan wrestling with Roseanne and putting her in a headlock.
It’s great physical comedy from John Goodman, who is surprisingly agile jumping around the couch, and really brings their romance to life. The physical work aside, this episode shows some particularly good chemistry between the two, as Roseanne seems to be genuinely laughing at most everything John Goodman does, giving the whole thing a spark. It came as no surprise when Roseanne recently revealed that she had had a crush on John Goodman during the first season of the show– in this episode, you can really tell. They click so well together, and there’s a pretty special look in her eye during their exchanges. This episode has always stood out to me as one in which these two do some of their best (lighthearted, as opposed to dramatic) work together.
– Jackie’s hair is finally straight and not so awful anymore! I think she keeps it straight from here on out, actually. Important development, obviously.
– I wonder if Chip puts two and two together when he officially meets Dan and Roseanne a few episodes later? I mean, we’ve established he’s not the brightest bulb, but surely he’d remember the woman who graced him with a 50-cent tip, right?