The culminating episodes of a season are important not just because they begin to wrap up story threads, but because they really expose a series’ strengths and weaknesses while doing so. Here, the ongoing tensions in the friendship between Jill and Vanessa finally reach a boiling point, a satisfying development for a show that’s more lightly serialized than others of its ilk. The confrontation between Jill and Vanessa is successful because it introduces more meaty dramatic material to the show and demonstrates the importance of this relationship to the story. The writers don’t exactly reinvent the wheel when constructing this emotional climax between the two characters. Jill ditches plans with Vanessa in order to attend the extravagant “Hat Luncheon.” This results in Vanessa calling Jill out for trying to have it both ways: complaining about her wealthy in-laws while actually relishing in her newfound—rather, increased—privilege. Of course the lie is exposed when Vanessa runs into Jill galavanting about in a silly hat with Brooke because that’s what always happens, but the hurt on Vanessa’s face sells this familiar storyline. The hurt that Vanessa displays throughout the episode is that much more impactful because she’s such an independent, acerbic character. That independent streak remains, nonetheless, as she initiates a great confrontation scene that takes place in Jill’s kitchen. This sequence evokes some of the best scenes in shows like Girls, where friendship-oriented plots are given as much weight and nuance as romantic storylines typically receive.
The twist that Vanessa is the truth fairy then balances out the pair’s dynamic. Someone in the UES inner circle has been committing the ultimate sin—educating children about current events—and Brooke takes it upon herself to find the culprit. and Brooke wants to get to the bottom of it. Corrupting UES children is a great follow-up to Vanessa’s babysitting shenanigans this season, contributing to the serialization and the character’s involvement in the main plot. Jill does have a good point that informing kids of the complexities of the human condition without their parents’ consent is probably pushing the boundaries of ethical behavior, and developing her argument further would have been beneficial. Vanessa is an excellent character, but it’s tempting to depict her as a saint in contrast to the abundance of deplorable characters. Vanessa is the audience surrogate in many ways, so sanctifying her would involve way too much pandering; the characters of both Vanessa and Jill benefit when they can take turns being right and wrong.
Vanessa thinks she’s doing the right thing by treating the kids like adults because as a doctor, she prioritizes the facts. Her bluntness also makes her a good friend; she doesn’t sugarcoat things when she’s hurt or concerned by Jill. The truth can be a bitter pill to swallow, but Vanessa’s approach is better than Brooke’s, which involves flattery, manipulation, and passive-aggressive asides meant to belittle. Odd Mom Out has struggled in its depiction of a familiar character like Brooke, overusing cliché plot points like self-serving philanthropic events and plastic surgery—or at least not using them to probe what’s going on under the surface. In its ninth episode, the show finally starts to crack that nut of a woman open, or at least get closer to the truth. Andy catches Lex cheating on Brooke, which facilitates a confession as to the real state of the Weber marriage. This is important because Lex finally gets some grounded characterization, and it suggests that Brooke is distracting herself with the superficial in order to avoid facing her crumbling marriage. The couple’s poor sex life has always been an (easy) joke, but this is a more straightforward and relatable take on the situation.
Seeds have been planted all season regarding both the Jill/Vanessa and Brooke/Lex storylines, but the former feels more successful than the latter because it’s more earned. Lex hasn’t been developed enough as a character up until this point—though he’s now surpassed Andy, which isn’t exactly a high bar—for the audience to invest much in the state of this marriage, but this bit of development is a start.
Taking a closer look at the Weber marriage is a good direction because there’s something hilarious and familiar about the lengths people will go to present a perfect façade to the world. According to Odd Mom Out, UES parents are presenting their children with an idealized worldview from the time they are young. It’s easy to forget that this show is about parenting to an extent—until one of the countless references to private school applications pops up. In this episode, the topic of parenting comes closer to the forefront; teaching kids about the bad that accompanies the good in the world is a difficult task and some parents would prefer to avoid the conversation altogether. In typical UES fashion, Brooke and her friends are experts at hiding blemishes, going so far as to shield their kids from any exposure to the injustices in the world. Vanessa may overstep her bounds by educating Jill’s kids about the world around them, but at least she’s providing some valid information that can be worked with instead of smoke and mirrors. The last scene involving Jill and her son may try a little too hard to tie the episode’s themes together in a neat little bow, but it’s a satisfying way to transition into the season finale. Jill’s son is having an existential early-life crisis after his conversation with Vanessa. Watching her son grapple with the realities of evil in the world, Jill reminds him that family is there to help people face life’s cruelties. In turn, he reminds her that Vanessa is family despite the fact that the two best friends have been fighting. This is a meaningful way to conclude the episode and hopefully hints at more substance to look forward to in the finale.
· Kids who are wise beyond their years may be an annoying trope in comedy, but the child actors really contributed to the comedy in this episode. The more playful diversions are always some of my favorite scenes and the montages of kids offering fun—or rather, depressing—facts about life are no different. “Why is the middle class disappearing? Are we middle class?”
· “You parent people think it’s your kids making you tired, but it’s just old age. I get exhausted walking home from the liquor store.”
· “Whenever we run into Jon Stewart in Turks and Caicos, we talk about everything but the news.”
· Between the hats and preppy kids’ clothes, whomever’s in charge of the costuming must have had a ball with this episode.
· I love how Jill is so invested in her quirky sense of humor, and how it actually serves her well at the Hat Luncheon. She is well on her way to becoming the Michael Scott of the UES if she isn’t careful though.