This episode is one of the structurally neatest we’ve seen yet—there’s three plotlines, with three beginnings, three middles, and three ends. There’s some filler along the edges of the Dan/Roseanne/rummage sale plotline to fill out the episode, which primarily consists of trotting out DJ for some cuteness and Dan doing bits.
Even when I’m dead you’re asking me where stuff goes!”
One plotline is that Darlene has gotten a D in History—apparently Ms. Crane is Darlene’s only teacher and History her only subject, because this is the only class/teacher we’ve ever heard about. But Roseanne has told Darlene that if she gets another D she’s off the basketball team, so Darlene conspires with Becky to change the D to a B on her report card. Becky, naturally, got straight A’s.
As it happens, this is the first time we get to see Darlene and Becky’s room. There isn’t much to unpack here—sports and tomboy stuff on one side, teddy bears and posters on the other—but I had to pause and wonder who these dudes on Becky’s wall are:
They’re all tanned and buff, so I’m thinking a sports team of some kind, but why would a sports team be posing like that, and shirtless? Plus their shoes/socks more like the uniforms of the Crystal Light aerobics guys. I just can’t work out what sort of poster that is.
The “middle” of this plot is some business with Roseanne and DJ asking the girls what’s going on, and Becky trying to pull out of the plan. The ending comes when Darlene and Becky present their report cards to Dan and Roseanne, and a somewhat alarming trend begins here. Becky has gotten straight A’s, like she always does, and her parents aren’t impressed. Becky points out her success to them, and Dan simply replies, “Aces as always.” They’re far more interested in Darlene’s B—we know that this is because they’re going to expose her lie, but I find it worth mentioning because this does actually happen in a later season, where Becky helps Darlene get a good grade on a paper and Roseanne and Dan make a far bigger fuss about Darlene’s good grade (I think a B then as well) then they ever, ever have over Becky’s stellar academic record. This also becomes part of the impetus for Becky’s abandonment of her family and career by eloping with Mark—it turns out that all her hard work over the years, to get good grades and make more of herself than her parents did, is for naught because the family can’t afford to send her to college.
I’ve been clear here that I don’t like Becky for the most part. She’s written to be very irritating, playing the part of a sassy teenage girl for several seasons. But I do feel bad for her sometimes, including times like these. She’s smart, and hardworking, but her parents clearly prefer Darlene and DJ. To them, Becky’s just there, being a good kid, helping out, and not needing guidance or punishment, so she doesn’t get much attention until she starts acting out more. In later seasons she calls them out on this—when Darlene goes through her depression, the whole family rallies together to help her, and Becky points out that everyone only cares about Darlene and never thanks Becky for everything she does. DJ, being the youngest and cutest, also benefits in this deal.
When I think about Becky in this context—working hard, craving her parents’ attention, and never getting any unless she misbehaves or sasses them—it’s no surprise that she is the way she is. Of course she starts mouthing off to Roseanne in later seasons and being all around intolerable—it’s the only way she gets attention from her parents. It’s no surprise that she runs off with Mark—she’ll finally have one-upped Darlene for attention from her parents, and all her years spent studying and working weren’t getting her anywhere. It’s Darlene that magically gets fantastic education and career opportunities despite never trying, ever.
Anyway—much like her parents, I still prefer the other two kids to Becky, but it’s easy to see why she turns out the way she does, especially considering that she probably feels like an outsider in her own family—what does she really have in common with any of them? She’s still going to annoy me to no end in those tumultuous episodes leading up to her elopement, but it’s worth noting her motivations and frustrations.
Anyway, back to this episode.
Jackie comes over to contribute some items to the rummage sale, and a bit ensues in which John Goodman practices his Elvis impression… not really his strongest, to be honest, but it’s an endearing bit because all three totally commit, and Roseanne and Laurie Metcalf are clearly having fun and getting physical.
Jackie tells Dan and Roseanne that she has a date with Booker. … Okay, so he IS still around, making Dan’s and her comments about her love life in “Saturday” pretty odd. One wonders if they ended up changing the airing order of some of these episodes. I realize they’ve talked before about not being exclusive, so it’s not inappropriate for her to have considered dating Dwight as well, but she sure whined a lot about there being no good men to date in Lanford, and Dan told Dwight she wasn’t seeing anyone.
This is compounded because when Booker later shows up at the Conner house, Darlene announces “Aunt Jackie, it’s Uncle Booker!” That sort of gives the impression that they’re going steady, right?
Anyway, Jackie is all done up for their date:
Booker, however, never showed up to pick her up, so she’s furious with him. He explains that he was on the phone with his mother, whose dog was hit by a car. No one believes this excuse, and it turns out this is their fourth “date” but only the first time they’ve gone out—he bails every time. Jackie understandably feels jerked around, but it’s hard to stay mad at Clooney.
The Dan/Roseanne plot isn’t super interesting—Dan’s a hoarder, and Roseanne is making him get rid of stuff—but the ending is fantastic. In yet another example of this show getting physical and really raising the stakes/ridiculousness of a bit to new heights, they start getting rid of each others’ things by throwing them out on the front lawn—first Dan’s cannon lighter, then the curtains, then Dan’s …wooden eagle thing? Dan tosses the coffee table out, then manhandles the couch and wedges it in the doorway.
The pair are so worked up by this point that they charge into the bedroom and get down to business.
Here I’ll point again to a great discussion of sitcom parents having sex, discussed by NPR’s Pop Culture Happy Hour podcast last week (perfect timing for my review of this episode, really). It’s great that this show plays their sexual relationship for laughs, but not the way most shows do—it’s not funny that the couple has sex in general, it’s not laughs at their expense, it’s flirtatious goofing off in the context of these two having a healthy sex life, and it’s fun for the couple and the audience to see.
– Roseanne is truly an amazing cook/homemaker:
Actually, what’s most endearing here is that Roseanne herself is giggling madly while she does this bit. I really love seeing how much fun everyone has making this show.
– Another nerdy set-dressing note: the family picture taken earlier this season is on display in the living room now:
– DJ gets tossed around a lot. Like, a lot.