The opening to “The Disappointment of the Dionne Quintuplets” is absolutely breathtaking, with shots of Midge moving out of her and Joel’s apartment, layered with many of Midge’s happy memories of marriage: we see her and Joel eating Chinese take-out on the floor of an empty apartment, welcoming in their first born, playing charades with friends, and hosting blow out parties, all the while the song “Happy Days Are Here Again” plays both sadly and triumphantly in the background. The montage ends with Midge looking around her apartment, empty but for one blue painting over the fireplace.
In the next scene, we see how those happy memories have become messy clutter, as stacks of Midge’s things are thrown haphazardly all over her parent’s apartment. Midge is moving in and we can already see how there are tensions over who is in charge of the space. Rose is thrilled to have her daughter home. She is convinced that it is only a mere hiccup in the marriage, and happily serves her daughter cups of her special Paris cocoa, while telling the neighbors a series of very impressive lies about the reason that Midge is spending so much time in the building. In contrast, Abe, who already knows more than his wife about the fact that their daughter has rejected Joel’s attempts to reconnect, feels displaced. In addition to several gigantic boxes that initially block him in his study, he suddenly has to compete with other family members for the living room.
Midge, meanwhile, is having the same mixed feelings that every twenty-something has when having to move back in with her parents. While her mother proudly declares that her room is filled with little surprises, all the tiny dog figurines, high school photos, and books from college, seem to inspire in Midge is despair at how she has returned to her adolescent life.
It was interesting to get so many reminders that Midge is in her twenties, since so many of the milestones she had prior to her separation—house, marriage, two kids, amazing and very grown-up wardrobe—make her seem as though she is in her thirties by Millennial standards. True, Midge is very wealthy, but today’s wealthy college girl tends to spend a few years bopping from job to job and boyfriend to boyfriend while eating the occasional avocado toast.
The only one completely thrilled at Midge’s life changing separation is Susie who is enthusiastically (and very slowly) printing individual business cards so that she can more effectively represent Midge (though she only has 8 and doesn’t want to give them up). In this episode, we get to know Susie a little more, and also see how she and Midge deepen their relationship, despite Susie’s stern protests that she has no interest in being friends. The two visit a record shop together to pick up some new comedy albums, and make plans to go to some comedy clubs for research.
Later than night, Joel calls Midge at home and lets her know that he has his own place and would like to see their son. He uses the call as a way to try to make chit chat with Midge, but she isn’t having it and the two decide to meet at her apartment the next day, so that Joel and Ethan can spend some time together. But rather than be home at the appropriate time, Midge gets wrapped up in a Greenwich Village rally. A very enthusiastic Midge gets the attention of the speaker, who invites Midge to share her story and she really gets the crowd going with her observational humor and spur of the moment slogan-making:
‘Maybe they just put those [shoe] ads in newspapers to distract us, because if women don’t realize what’s going on in the world, they won’t step in and fix it. Because they will fix it! And accessorize it!” Midge shouts to a wave of applause.
In fact, she stays so late at the rally that she needs to rearrange her meeting with Joel. She gets his address from his bumbling new secretary, and arrives at an apartment that looks suspiciously like the one she and Joel spent the last 4 years sharing. When she arrives at the door, who should be there but Penny Pan! That’s right—Joel moved in with Midge’s arch nemesis, the secretary that Joel had been having an affair with and Midge is not having it:
“I thought I’d find you squatting in some downtown smoke-filled atelier, not two blocks away living the Methodist version of our life. With the Methodist version of me.”
Ouch. Midge isn’t wrong. Even for Joel, it’s pretty disappointing behavior, one that cements Midge’s judgment, but also stings. When Midge asks why he left her for a bizzaro version of his same life, Joel tells her that he had to leave because, “After that night at the club after I failed like that, I just knew you would never look at me the same way again.”
“Well, you were right,” Midge tells him, “Just not about the club part.”
Midge takes off her wedding ring and she and Susie meet up as planned and go from club to club, laughing and taking notes. Susie even gives away a few of her business cards. At the Copacabana, Midge and Susie watch from the kitchen, and Midge imagines herself as the comic in the spotlight, wearing all white, just like she did the night of her wedding toast. Susie and Midge share French fries and talk about whether or not they are friends (spoiler alert: they clearly, clearly are).
Sadly, reality hits when Midge comes home to find her parents waiting up for her as though she were still sixteen-years old.In Midge’s defense, her life has been turned entirely upside down and it makes sense that she is still reeling and not making the most sensible decisions. In Abe and Rose’s defense, their daughter is acting a lot like an entitled adolescent. After getting punished, Midge goes to her room, and stares angrily at the ceiling in the same defiant stance I’m sure she gave when she was a teenager living at home. Her mother offers to make cocoa to cheer her up and Midge tells her that Joel has moved in with Penny, which renders Rose speechless. In the last scene, we watch Midge watching a neighbor’s TV through a window. “I’ve got to get a job,” she sighs.
- My least favorite part of episode 4 were the jokes at the expense of the collectors of unusual sound in the record store. The store itself had a great aesthetic, but all the nerd and virgin jokes weren’t particularly unique or interesting to me. The scene also seemed out of place tone-wise, though I couldn’t quite put my finger on why.
- I’m obsessed with how cute everyone’s sleepwear is! And how Rose does the same little nighttime routine as her daughter, merely adding tape on her eyes in order to prevent wrinkles.
- I wasn’t sure if I should be impressed or sad by Rose’s lies about Joel, which were so ridiculously grandiose. Me think the lady doth gloat too much over Joel’s imaginary promotion.
- “Is there a mayonnaise and Wonderbread café somewhere we can try?” is the best Jewish insult of Goyish food I’ve ever heard!