It’s Dan’s birthday, and to celebrate the kids have made him a birthday breakfast (“Do I have to eat it?” Dan asks plaintively).
Becky has been invited over to Chip’s house for dinner with his parents. YES, more time with this little superstar!
Roseanne initially says Becky can’t go, until she learns that Chip lives in a really nice house on Franklin Street. It’s Becky’s first date, so it’s a big deal, and it’s nice that Roseanne makes a big fuss over it because pretty often in the series you get the sense that Becky is her parents’ least favorite. It makes sense– Darlene grows into a droll carbon copy of her mother, and DJ has the adorable youngest kid thing going for him (until he hits puberty and turns pretty weird), while Becky’s main characteristic is being a bratty teenage girl.
Chip and his mother show up– I’m still wondering if he’s worked out that the big tipper at the bowling alley is his girlfriend’s mother– but more importantly, his mother Bonnie is serving up some serious Jazzercise style for us:
Honestly, aside from the hilarity of her outdated outfit there, this woman coming to their door, looking the way she is, and apologizing for her appearance because she “just came from exercise class,” is such a perfectly stark contrast to the Conner family’s reality. This woman is clearly upper class, and we can tell that without even knowing that they live over on Franklin Street– she has the time to take exercise classes, first of all, instead of spending all her time working like both Conner parents. In addition, she does so in pristine outfits, with perfectly arranged hair, and doesn’t break a sweat. That outfit is a status symbol, much like the upper-class mothers of today in their yoga pants and minivans who go to tennis lessons and charity shops. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that– it’s just a symbol of a lifestyle, is what I’m saying.)
Unlike with Ms. Crane in the pilot, Bonnie isn’t treated as a fool or set up as an us vs. them character, as many others in her position will be (for example, the rich neighbors who move in next door). I just felt it was worth noting that, even though this isn’t played to any large effect within the episode, something as simple as her one line on her outfit actually speaks volumes about the classes these two families inhabit.
Not much else happens in this plotline with Becky– the rest of the action centers around Dan, who is beginning to realize he’s not young and spry like he used to be. It starts with some kid at work showing off, and Dan competing with him. The gang goes out to the Lobo Lounge, and everyone’s having a good time…
…until this guy comes looking for trouble.
Bobo keeps pushing things, and eventually Dan shoves him. Roseanne storms out, so Dan, mortified, leaves without fighting the guy. 10 years prior, we learn, Dan promised Roseanne he wouldn’t fight anymore. However, by being scolded and not allowed to fight this guy, Dan was embarrassed in front of his friends, so he takes out his frustration with himself and his age on Roseanne.
There’s also a bit where Dan, in a rage, destroys some drywall, unaware that Darlene has returned and is watching this unfold.
This is a pretty powerful moment– most people can remember a time when they first saw their parents lose their cool. It’s frightening to see someone that, in your small universe, has so much power and control, get overwhelmed. This is particularly true of Dan, who is generally such a giant teddy bear with the kids. He takes off, and Roseanne goes to find him at the Lobo Lounge.
As it turns out, though he wanted to hit Bobo, he didn’t want Bobo to hit him back. This realization surprises Dan, as he says he never would have thought of that 10 years ago. Roseanne surmises that she and the kids have civilized him; Dan supposes it’s because he’s getting old. Naturally, Bobo the asshole returns to the bar, wearing Dan’s hat.
Now that Bobo has insulted Roseanne, it’s personal. Dan looks to her plaintively, and she says, “Just this once!” Then, this fantastic moment:
And like that, Bobo is down for the count.
We learn a lot about Dan from this episode. In his youth, he was a tough, fightin’ guy, sure, but now he’s a husband, and a father. He’s matured, even though it’s hard to resist engaging people like Bobo. The only two times we’ll ever see Dan get physical like this with someone is when his family gets hurt: when Bobo insults Roseanne, and, later, when Fisher abuses Jackie. He may be a big guy, and a rough-and-tumble biker at that, but first and foremost, he’s a loving, protective patriarch.