“Ranch” resonates with me for several reasons. Some of those are just personal tidbits, like the lengthy Slack discussion we recently had at work about the abomination that is ranch dressing, or a conversation I had with a friend about how a relationship should (ideally) help you become a better version of yourself. But, there’s also a less specific-to-me appeal to it. First of all, Patti is back! And she’s at her Midwestern Nicest, her mom-est, after learning about Lucy. She knows Josh isn’t going to pony up the info, and she’s certainly not going to outright ask him about it either—that would make her seem pushy.
So she sends Tom in her stead, who knocks Josh’s block off before inviting him to dinner. This is every bit as ridiculous and delightful as it sounds, with Josh and Lucy parkour-ing their way through Chinatown to evade Tom, who seems to have been granted special powers by the new hat he’s trying on (what is this, The Adjustment Bureau?). It’s all very telling, and not just in the way that Lucy readily trusts Josh when he tells her they have to run from the man in the trench coat whom she later learns is his stepfather. But the sequence also rounds out Josh and Patti’s relationship. We know she loves him, wants the best for him, etc. And he doesn’t want to disappoint her, which is why he signed up for that coding class last season. There’s a darker side to all of that, though: Patti is quite passive aggressive, and Josh is just too passive. He’s afraid of confronting his mother, which is what asking for space is tantamount to in their world.
Introducing a new girlfriend shouldn’t be a cause for conflict—at least, not when everyone hits it off right away—but it becomes one here after Lucy is a little too successful in her efforts to win over Patti and Tom. Well, Tom is so affable that he’s probably sold on the relationship from the beginning, so it’s really just Patti and her customs that Lucy has to observe. So she heads to the leading expert in Patti and Tom, who is Liz, naturally. Josh’s older sister lived among them for 18 years, she boasts, and she knows how important it is to humor Patti and leave her towels untouched.
A disturbing amount of ranch dressing later, Patti is ’shipping Josh and Lucy pretty hard. Whether it’s because she’s touched that Lucy took the time to learn the rituals—including the ceremonial response “I look forward to reading this later”—or because she’s happy to see Josh happy, Patti wants to bask in their honeymoon phase. Of course, it doesn’t occur to her that she’s a third wheel, not even when she’s the only one who wants to go on a church tour.
Josh’s refusal to hurt Patti’s feelings is part self-preservation, part concern for her wellbeing. It’s his mom, after all—how can he admit he wants to see her only so often? His reluctance is understandable, and even though she urges him to come clean, Lucy gets it. But she also knows his evasive maneuvers are doing more harm than good, as we see when Patti pulls a John Hinckley Jr. With her help, Josh realizes he has to set boundaries with his mom. She doesn’t take it well, being his No. 1 fan and all—her spirit’s so broken that Tom considers taking her to “yonder shed” to put her out of her misery.
As Josh and Lucy’s relationship develops, so does his and Patti’s. There’s a happy ending here, but I get the sense (from one of the trailer’s) that it might be temporary. This could all be happening a little too fast for Patti. That development benefits from the misdirection—you assume Lucy won’t impress Patti, or that Josh will be the one who does something to screw things up. I remain impressed with how the show upends our expectations as to where the tension will come from; this reset is working on so many levels for me.
- I really enjoyed this episode, but it felt awfully short, didn’t it?
- Who else assumed that Tom and Patti’s love of Blue Bloods was tied to Tom Selleck? I thought for sure Patti would have some kind of crush on him, but it looks like they just like the family angle. Which is maybe more in character.
- Having said that, at least the fake Blue Bloods family’s patriarch was sporting a ’stache.
- I’m starting to worry about Mike being sidelined. Lucy is amazing, but surely Mike has some objection to their instant coupledom? That seemed to be where the show was headed with his cult leader fantasy sequence. I get that it’s important to check in with the parents, and I adore Mark McKinney and Robin Duke, but something feels a little off.
- What else is Liz an expert in, do you suppose? Aside from Patti, Tom, Josh, and finger waves?
- There is no way Josh or Lucy can afford $200 curtains.
- Josh’s progression was great, but Tom had the best lines: “I should not have reloaded.” “I was going to let her get to browsing at the Yankee Candle, then shoot her in the back of the head.”
- Liz always handles Josh and Patti’s closeness rather maturely.