We are just five episodes into Good Girls, but stop me if you’ve heard this one before: Beth suggests an illegal concept for the good girls to partake in and then changes her mind at the last minute, forcing Annie and Ruby to talk her back into it. This episode, “Taking Care Of Business,” at least has Annie finally point out that it’s all a part of Beth’s “process” before she officially stays on board for whatever the thing is. But it really is frustrating to keep seeing the character who—at this point—is most responsible for them getting in deeper and deeper constantly also try to take the moral high ground in suggesting it’s all just a bad idea. Especially when it’s already too late to go back and undo whatever she’s had done.
But to be fair, that particular aspect of the show isn’t the biggest problem with “Taking Care Of Business.” It’s just something to keep an eye on.
“Beth struggles to keep her new business separate from her home life.”
That’s a sentence from this episode’s synopsis, and while episode synopses are intentionally vague and sometimes misleading, it’s really disappointing just how little that actually happens to case. (She is struggling not to be caught by the FBI though.) When it comes to keeping her business separate from her home life, it’s actually pretty easy for Beth. Because she’s apparently surrounded by dummies.
She’s able to shake off an annoying PTA mom by saying the very obvious real bullet holes in her car are “BB gun” holes, and the fact that said bullet holes are not a constant topic of conversation in this episode is kind of absurd. There is the great visual of her covering them all up with bumper stickers (including the classic honor roll student sticker), but for one of the bigger things outsiders would definitely question, the episode does very little to address it and moves on quickly. It doesn’t even come up after Dean tries to get back in Beth’s good graces by filling that car’s gas tank, and while it’s known that he’s a dummy, that’s still hard to buy.
Speaking of Dean, his fake cancer isn’t a heavy focus this week, but it has rather easily served as a proper entry way back into the house. I feel like I should just point this out now, since I won’t get to in the future: He’s faking cancer. So it’s hard to feel bad for him when he realizes Beth would’ve still left him even if he hadn’t blown up their lives. If anything, it’s a sign he should just give up on this whole attempt to fix things… but you can’t really give up once you play the fake cancer card, can you?
Keep in mind that there is also a character on this show who’s actually sick, which is what leads to Sara’s kidney failure in this episode. Well, that and her (well-meaning, but very unaware) decision to store her meds for later. Good Girls actually touches on a pretty good point about kids knowing when things aren’t exactly peachy keen around the house—Sara definitely shows more understanding here than Kenny did last week—and wanting to help. But “Taking Care Of Business” unfortunately doesn’t apply that type of genuine poignancy in the rest of the episode’s plots. As a result, this episode is easily the least substantial of the bunch so far, feeling poorly sketched out in a way that can’t just be explained with “suburban moms just don’t understand.”
For example, we learn this week just how truly lost Annie is without Sadie, as her loneliness leads to an ill-advised one night stand with Brian from electronics (Thomas McDonnell). Said one night stand also leads to the single most ridiculous caper of the show so far, the hunt for Annie’s store receipt. Seriously: The guy takes the receipt home with him and dumps it in his trash there (and also takes it out). Yes, that shows just how much of an idiot the guy is, but it’s still a plot contrivance and a half. Then, during this particular plot—which leads to a classic television dumpster dive—Annie and Beth get into a sister argument about Annie’s poor decision-making when it comes to men. This is also after Annie spends the early part of the episode talking about how Beth is so predictable and essentially rattling off her sister’s personality to a bunch of gang members, so there’s even more of a reason for an outburst to occur. Then we get the really loaded comment from Beth to Annie: “Maybe take one more minute of conversation before you drop your pants!”
When Annie asks if she’s “slut-shaming” her, Beth makes it clear she is very much just “shaming” her sister. It’s not the kind of comment you say when it comes to just a singular one night stand; this is a comment judging every choice in guy Annie has ever made. That would include Gregg and the fact that they had Sadie relatively young (and now look how that turned out). Or at least one can assume that, since the episode decides not to dwell on Beth insulting Annie like this. (In this same argument, Annie insults Beth for letting another cheating scumbag off the hook, but again, no dwelling.) There’s no apology scene between the two sisters. Instead, the episode moves past Annie and Beth reconciling, in favor of them just being at that good place again by the end of the episode. Good Girls loves to milk material from these characters’ personal issues, so when the two sisters tell Ruby they made up—offscreen—the audience has to wonder when the hell this happened and how it got so tied up into a neat little bow. How could this show possibly deprive its audience of a Christina Hendricks/Mae Whitman sister reconciliation scene?
“Taking Care Of Business” is an episode that’s so concerned with getting things over with that it breezes by things like actual conversations or Annie finally meeting with a custody lawyer or even the big question about if Rio’s counterfeit can get past counterfeit tests. The answer to that last one is “yes,” and even though the show tries to build back some tension with the money machine—after just throwing out that the funny money even passes the pen test—it’s too late for it to be effective. And regarding the entire money laundering scheme, suspicions somehow aren’t even raised when Annie spends $20,000 in cash on just flat screen TVs. (Ruby at least has a very elaborate redecorating story to go along with her crime.) Even the way the show handles the bigger issue of Ruby lying to Stan about still working at the diner requires the audience not to ask: “What if Stan goes to the diner and learns Ruby doesn’t work there anymore?” What if literally anyone they know (who isn’t Annie or Beth) learns that and tells Stan? She’s already barely cutting it with her line about leaving her uniform at work.
Then there are scenes like the one between Beth and the PTA mom, which starts late enough for us to catch that Beth is avoiding helping out with school stuff... and reminds us that Good Girls really hasn’t worked too hard at making that “Beth is also a mother” thing matter as much as it does with Ruby and Annie. Last week’s episode had a lot more of mother Beth, but that was still more about her fractured relationship with Dean. Despite the title, “taking care of business” doesn’t exactly describe this episode or how it handles the issues piling up for these women.
It’s disappointing that “Taking Care Of Business” is such a thinly-sketched out episode of Good Girls—especially in comparison to the previous episodes—as it comes with the girls finally having a more consistent flow of cash and the new, larger obstacle in the form of James Lesure’s FBI Agent Turner. These are the types of things that should make an episode tighter, more focused. Plus, this is the first episode without Boomer, and that should be a good thing. But somehow, that’s not what happens. Hopefully this doesn’t apply to the rest of the season.
- ATTENTION: I hate to go out on such a downer note, but this marks the official end of regular Good Girls coverage here at The A.V. Club. If all goes according to plan, I’ll check back in with the season finale. Let’s see where this crazy show goes. (I’ll still be watching the show though, because as I’ve been saying since the beginning, the cast is too good to be true.)
- As I mentioned, Brian’s played by Thomas McDonnell, who most people probably know as Finn from The 100. I personally remember him as Scott Strauss, Tessa’s “worldly” boyfriend from Suburgatory. My notes when I first saw Brian? “I think he played an obnoxious hipster somewhere before…”
- The best part about Brian being an idiot who took the receipt home is that it eventually reveals even more about his douchebaggery when Beth finds the receipt under his kid’s artwork. He trashed his kid’s artwork, y’all.
- Annie says she checked one of the $20 bills with the pen at work and it was perfect. Was this another offscreen thing? Because I’m still not clear about the moment in “Borderline” when she finally used the pen; I assumed at first it was one of Rio’s bills, but I couldn’t figure out how she would’ve snagged one from the warehouse.
- Which seems like a worse idea: Ruby hiding the money in a box in the hallway closet or Beth hiding the money at the bottom of cereal boxes (under the bags) and dog food? I want to say Beth’s idea is legitimately much worse, but I can see Ruby getting caught first.
- Ruby: “Who steals a receipt, anyway?”
Annie: “Well, he wrote his number on it, so I guess he just didn’t want me to call him again.”
Beth: “Isn’t it in your phone?”
Annie: “Well, yeah, but—”
Beth: “And who is this guy?!”
- Beth is great at lying—especially with a clipboard—but none of the girls are good at names. Which is why Annie refers to Rio as “gang friend” (and also can’t determine between “Brad,” “Brian,” or “Brendan”) and Ruby thinks it’s “Ron.” Beth is the one who remembers his name... but based on the affair story she tells Agent Turner, that’s probably because she thinks a lot about Rio. Outside of gang friend status. I’m talking about sex.
- Beth: “You think she doesn’t know. That state of that woman’s marriage was written all over her face. We didn’t have to tell her. She already knows.” So, did Beth know, deep down, that Dean had royally screwed her over before she found out? Does she at least have an inkling he’s faking cancer? Because he’s not exactly doing a good job with this lie.
- I honestly wonder how Ruby and Stan’s son feels during all of this.