“Midwife Crisis” may feature the most dramatic storyline of Odd Mom Out yet, but the episode is also one of the series’ most underwhelming installments to date. For one, trying to make a stock plot like an emergency baby delivery feel fresh is an uphill battle from the get-go. Here, Jill acts as the impromptu midwife in question. She pays a visit to Brooke only to find the kind of trail that Hansel and Gretel would appreciate; Brooke’s pristine Upper East Side carpet has been stained by blood and other delivery-related bodily excrement, fun indications that the lady of the house is going into labor unexpectedly. The welcome absurdity and grotesquerie of this scene doesn’t change the fact that this is one of the most overused sitcom conventions, and the number of clichés in the rest of the episode threaten to tank it completely.
Jill is stuck having to care for Brooke at the apartment and on the subsequent trip to the hospital because Andy and Lex are behaving like stereotypical hapless husbands. Having turned off their electronic devices for the day so they can enjoy a “babysitting” stint turned man-date free from technological distractions, the two cut all communicative ties with their partners despite the fact that Brooke is scheduled for a Caesarian section the very next day. To make things worse, the brothers’ bonding session also includes a business deal where Andy tentatively agrees to work for Lex, a commitment that he brokers without consulting his wife. Andy’s trip to the doghouse isn’t really solidified, though, until he mistakes a bandage dress for appropriate hospital attire; Jill asks for a change of clothes since her outfit has turned into a crime scene thanks to Brooke’s lady-emissions, and Andy has the nerve to be unfamiliar with the intricacies of fashion. At this point, even Al Bundy would commiserate with Jill over a pint of Häagen-Dazs. Now Vanessa could’ve served as an effective stand-in for Jill’s husband, as best friends so often do, but she’s stuck in another thankless dating subplot preventing her from fulfilling her medical and comedic duties at the hospital—you know, the setting of the episode where she also happens to work.
It’s fine for writers to employ tropes in moderation—they’re classics for a reason—but their inclusion needs to be justified, or at least mitigated by stronger material. In this case, a lot of laughs or unexpected, creative twists could have balanced out the shortcuts, but they’re missing in action. Odd Mom Out showed potential early on with witty, verbose writing; unfortunately, the quotable lines are few and far between in “Midwife Crisis.” To be fair, however, this is an especially strong effort when it comes to visual humor, a crucial staple of any comedy’s toolbox. Images like the trail of blood, catcher’s mitt, Grenouille hallucinations, smeared mascara, and stuck zipper help make up for the dearth of memorable jokes.
At least there are interesting parallels drawn between two of the key pairings on the show, highlighting the dysfunction inherent in these relationships. Both are their own kinds of hell. Andy’s obnoxious little brother wants to hire him, offering a job opportunity that could bring them closer together—possibly within the confines of a jail cell. Meanwhile, Jill gets caught in the vicious cycle that is Brooke. The sisters-in-law actually have a brief moment of bonding during the hasty delivery when Brooke is in so much pain that she lets down her guard for a second and issues forth a string of inanities. Her babbling may be barely coherent, but at least she’s showing honesty and vulnerability for once. Jill and Brooke also connect over parenting tips and the greatest unifier—complaining about a fellow family member—but the newfound closeness is soon lost. A glimpse of Brooke’s actual psychology is revealed when she takes advantage of the situation, manipulating Jill into running errands in a way that comes across as very well-practiced. This episode may begin with a bloodbath, but a bed-ridden UES princess’ utterance of the words, “I love you” may have been the most disturbing part. While the character of Brooke still isn’t unique enough to be particularly entertaining or interesting, her penchant for manipulation offers a world of possibilities. Secondly, at a time when so many shows are tugging at the heartstrings in order to hook viewers, it’s almost refreshing for one to double down on an antagonist’s nastiness as the show unfolds. Sometimes seemingly bad people are misunderstood—and sometimes a spade’s a spade. The takeaway from this episode is that family bonding can be good—and it can also suck people into a vortex of pain so beware.
There are several seeds of ideas in this episode that could have used some expounding upon, offering angles for storytelling and jokes that the A-plot doesn’t provide. For instance, Vanessa’s liaison with an overly ambitious real estate broker mines typical dating behavior for material but it only skims the surface; there are so many other topics besides loud sex to be explored. What is it like to date in a world where finding a kindred spirit in another person is less important than self-promotion? More importantly, what happened after the nursing staff mistook Grenouille for a missing baby? That little guy has already been good for a few sight gags; whenever possible given the time allotted, push that delicious absurdity to its illogical conclusion! Odd Mom Out should seek inspiration from sketch shows like Key and Peele and Inside Amy Schumer, series demonstrating an important commonality between comedy and tennis: It’s all about follow through—and love, but mostly follow through.
· This episode of Odd Woman Out is brought to you by Waterproof Mascara™.
· You know what I don’t miss? “Journalists” applauding comediennes daring enough to “forsake vanity” to get a laugh, i.e. throw themselves into a bit with no qualms about their styling or lack thereof. Maybe sometimes that’s the job, which most actors are thrilled to have in the first place. Yeesh. So brave.