This isn’t a great episode of Raising Hope, but it’s a very physical and animated one. Virginia has a scene where she has to slip in and out of the house undetected, bobbing and weaving around Maw Maw (who’s trying unsuccessfully to pull a sweater over her head), Burt (who’s air drumming while listening to music on headphones), and Jimmy, who, for reasons well-justified by the story line, is wearing a football helmet and spritzing himself in the face while having a seizure. The throwaway gags include a TV commercial for engagement rings that features an exploding head. It’s as if somebody decided that, if this week’s episode wasn’t going to be a candidate for the time capsule, the show could at least demonstrate how energetically it could mark time until inspiration hits again.
It actually sort of works; I wasn’t always as entertained as I would have liked, but I can’t say that my mind wandered. I was always looking forward to what outtake from a bad acid flashback might be popping up on the screen next. Both the hyperkinetic and lysergic aspects of the episode might be best represented by the return of the short cop who yearns for Virginia. With his head tilted upward in the direction of whomever he’s addressing, this guy always throws his whole body into every line reading, and when he’s in close-up, he throws his whole face into it. No line is too insignificant for him not to use it as an occasion to set his features roiling, transforming the space between his forehead and his chin into what Spalding Gray, referring to his own acting on a bad day, once referred to as “a teeming amoebic mass.” If you looked through a high-powered telescope and saw this face on a distant planet, you’d want to back up. I was kind of appalled, but here’s the thing: I did laugh.
The story has to do with Sabrina seeing that commercial and being all blasé about the idea of receiving an engagement ring from Jimmy. Burt, in one of his rare outbursts of genuinely helpful parenting, picks up on this and assures Jimmy that, whatever Sabrina says she thinks or even thinks she thinks, there’ll be hell to pay if she doesn’t get a ring. He assures Jimmy to follow his lead and do whatever it takes to get the extra bread needed to pull this off. (Burt himself bought Virginia’s ring by working as an extra on an episode of T. J. Hooker. “Two things I learned: Captain Kirk cannot remember his lines, and he is not a hugger.”) Jimmy nods and rushes off to volunteer to serve as a guinea pig-for-hire in medical experiments, sitting in a lab and receiving electrical shocks if he gives the wrong answer, or an answer, to the question, “Which of these flowers do you find prettier?”
What Burt never suspects is that Virginia is in the habit of selling her own engagement ring to Big Judy at the pawnshop whenever she’s in need of cash, then buying it back when she gets her next paycheck. Now that engagement rings are on Burt’s mind, he starts to wonder why Virginia isn’t wearing hers, so she “borrows” a few items from the house to trade in for the ring, and when she returns home, Burt’s noticed the missing prizes and called the cops. In the course of trying to make things right, Virginia ends up confiding in Sabrina, after they’ve had a sisterly moment of sharing and commiseration over Sabrina’s secretly sneaking off to have her excessive-back-hair problem tended to. There’s more sharing going on at the grocery store, where Jimmy—who, naturally, has eyes to buy his mom’s ring when he sees it on display at Big Judy’s—enlists Frank’s help in plotting out the ideal circumstances under which he might propose to Sabrina, a scenario that Frank confesses to having already put a great deal of thought into. He has some terrific ideas, though some require more work and audience participation than others. “Do you know any members of the band the Knack,” he asks, “and would Sabrina be willing to change her name to Sharona?”
Because this is Raising Hope, it all ends very sweetly. Listening to Virginia talk about how important her ring is, but how she thought she could sell it and buy it back as many times as she liked because nobody else would want the battered old thing, causes Sabrina to realize that the homey, hard-battered trinket is the perfect symbol of Burt and Virginia’s marriage, which makes her also realize that she wants a marriage like that herself, which of course goes hand in hand with her realization that she wants a ring after all. When she tells Jimmy, he decides that she deserves better than to receive his mom’s crappy old ring under Frank-conceived conditions, and our boy steps up his game and arranges a lovely backyard ceremony that actually gives Hope something to do. And Frank farts in a pickle barrel and Burt’s testicles retract into his chest cavity, because that, too, is Raising Hope. It contains multitudes.
- The items Virginia lifts from her home to sell to Big Judy include “a rare director’s cut edition of Cujo on VHS. It’s only 20 minutes long. I guess he didn’t think much of the dog’s performance.”
- Fun fact: The Chances arrange their VHS tapes “by ferocity of serial killers.”
- Burt’s pet names for his testicles are Heckle and Schmeckle. This is exactly the kind of thing that may come up in the next pop quiz.