Martha’s deadpan, oddball persona has always been one of Baskets’ best features. Fitted with a perpetually dour expression and a still-unexplained cast on her arm, Martha plays the “straight” role opposite the wacky Baskets family (even though she herself is pretty wacky), and takes quite a bit of abuse and neglect for her trouble. Though kind of a doormat, she makes herself available whenever possible and provides stone-faced encouragement to the few desperate souls that circle her proverbial wagon. She’s a good person but gets almost no credit for it.

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Despite her emotional proximity to Chip, the particulars of their relationship haven’t been explicitly addressed before “Marthager.” They’re friends by default, mostly because Chip doesn’t have anyone else outside of his immediate family who cares about him, but vague, unexplained tension exists between them. However, Chip finally admits to Martha that she’s a friend this week, partially because he doesn’t know how else to describe their relationship and partially because it’s true.

After Christine unceremoniously kicks him and his brother out of her house for completely destroying it, Chip is once again on his ass. Equipped with rollerblades and his few precious belongings, he returns to the old rodeo, the scene of his past… well, “glory” isn’t the right word, but rather “mild stability.” He breaks in and decides to hole up there for the time being, but it’s not long before he’s at Martha’s doorstep trying to figure out what to do next. “I think I’d just like to function as a normal person for once,” he says with sincerity.

Eventually, Martha becomes Chip’s de facto manager, landing him a job at a Costco employee picnic, which goes well until he learns he’s encroaching on the territory of Friendly Fun Events, a corporate party company that appears to have reach in the area. The Friendly Fun Events manager Ginny (Karen Maruyama) offers Chip some employment—two to three days a week of events and a plum spot in the Almond Parade. Not only is it considerably more than what Martha can provide, it can also provide Chip with a studio apartment near the airport. Soon, Chip defects to Ginny, who unceremoniously calls Martha to tell her that she’s fired.

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Though “Marthager” mostly sets the table for the back half of the season, there are a few bright spots, particularly Kelly, who conveys both humor and emotion with reactive facial expressions and slight, exasperated gestures. After she’s fired, Martha doesn’t wallow in the betrayal but instead moves on undeterred by landing Chip a job at her nephew’s birthday party. Of course, it’s on the same day as the Almond Parade, so when Chip fails to show, Martha steps in and performs miserably. When she eventually meets up with Chip, their brief conversation, while mostly a source of laughs, clearly touches Martha, especially when he tells her that she’s more of a friend than a manger. “That’s the nicest thing anyone has ever said to me,” she tells him. “Really?” Chip responds. “That’s depressing.”

Meanwhile, Christine has moved back in with her mother (Ivy Jones) while her home is being renovated. Christine’s mother exclusively dabbles in passive-aggression and judgment—not to mention her dog has an incessant urination problem—but this time, she doesn’t try to make Christine feel bad about herself. Instead, she encourages her to travel to Denver to meet up with Ken, the guy she met at the Ronald Reagan library. Christine protests, saying she has to be there for her family, but Christine’s mother rightfully says she’s using that as an excuse not to find her own source of happiness. She cites her failed, quasi-abusive relationship with her husband as an example, claiming she only “hung around that poisonous well” because she “didn’t wanna walk a few miles to the next one.” It’s a sweet scene, and one that neatly reframes their relationship away from typical mother-daughter friction.

There’s not much else to say about “Marthager,” a mildly funny episode that moves Baskets relatively minor plot forward. Christine is on her way to Denver. Chip has a job and also replaced her mother’s toilet. Dale is back at work. Martha enters the “small talk” stage of her relationship with Chip. All is temporarily right with the world, but this is Baskets, so it’s unclear how long that will last. It might be enough to take solace in the brief moment when Chip and Martha decide that they’re both schizophrenic because their ring and index fingers are the same size. “I guess we’re meant to be friends,” says Chip, but they can’t decide if that’s nice or sad. Such is life. Such is Baskets.

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Stray observations

  • Funniest sight gags in the episode, in ascending order: 3. Martha in clown makeup; 2. Ginny shoveling peanuts into her mouth while explaining terms to Chip; 3. The Almond Parade, that it exists and that there is an anthropomorphic almond played by a woman named Sheila.
  • Chip wonders if it’s possible that the clowns supposedly scaring children in the woods are being paid. He asks Martha to look into it.
  • Dale asks Chip if he wants to go to Hooters and “get some soup,” which is absurd and wonderful.
  • “I fell in with a bunch of squatter types. Their leader was a drug-addled flautist and I watched his body get snapped in half on a choo-choo train.”—-Chip on his time away.
  • “Martha, I don’t want to sound greedy, but I can’t survive on two days a work per year. Trust me, I’ve tried.”
  • “My last gig was a car accident.”
  • “I was driving when I got trapped by this parade and then I made a little girl cry.”
  • “Yeah, I dunno how much of it is enthusiasm, Martha, versus just desperation.”

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