“Scrapbook/Skidresa” spends some needed time with Bruce and Emma, together…well, until Emma takes off on her own little mission to catch guest star Anja Pärson, the alpine skiing Olympic gold medalist. In fact, even though “Scrapbook/Skidresa” initially promises a ski weekend with Bruce and Emma that could potentially allow the show to delve back into the relationship dynamics that make it so authentic and engaging, the story ends up getting tied down with Bruce at his worst.

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Slightly ignorant, out-of-his-league Bruce can be fun, but I’ll take the Bruce who can’t quite master Swedish sounds or the Bruce who doesn’t understand a Swedish joke over the Bruce who comes to this ski trip any day. Here, Bruce is gratingly arrogant and even just straight-up dumb. I do believe he would have a superiority complex when it comes to skiing, given his athletic past and American roots. And there’s definitely a sense that the writers treat Bruce as the punching bag here, poking fun at his American stupidity. But the time spent on his ignorance makes the episode very one-note and also makes it hard to remember what Emma sees in him in the first place. Making Bruce look like an idiot informs the show’s tone and humor, but it just goes a little too far in “Scrapbook/Skidresa,” making him loathsome.

Birgir and Viveka, at least, are much more engaging than Bruce and Emma in “Scrapbook/Skidresa.” The plot between Birgir and Viveka stings, but their relationship remains one of Welcome To Sweden’s most compelling and offers a very interesting contrast to Bruce and Emma. Birgir and Viveka aren’t compelling in the sense that they’re believably in love. On the contrary, it’s a realistic rendering of a relationship that you don’t normally find on television: a marriage of mostly, well, obligation. As we know, Birgir and Viveka aren’t technically married, but that’s just a cultural technicality. They’ve been together for decades, even though there are plenty of signs that suggest they maybe shouldn’t be.

I’m not saying they don’t love each other. Viveka eventually comes around to Birgir’s egg sandwiches and other traditions by episode’s end, but the fact that she resented them at all is very telling. Viveka left Birgir last season, and even though they’re back together, there’s a sense that some of that has to do with the kids and Birgir’s health and Viveka’s brief but failed attempt at single life and not necessarily with “true love.” Viveka’s explanation of how they’ll always longs for the past is devastating but also beautiful. She’s right: No matter how good the present is, they’ll always remember the past with the glistening sheen of a scrapbook. “Scrapbook/Skidresa” drives home the idea that love and relationships are hard work with about a billion variables at play—a point Welcome To Sweden has grappled with since the beginning. Could Bruce and Emma follow down a similar path as Birgir and Viveka? That’s a pretty dark thought for an otherwise colorful show about young love, but Welcome To Sweden isn’t always all that rosy when it comes to relationships.

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Stray observations

  • Bruce trying (failing) to sing along to Birgir’s goat song reminds me of when my father tries to sing along to Norwegian songs with the rest of our family at Christmas.
  • “Honey, aren’t you having anything to drink?” - Viveka, to Birgir, after ordering two shots…for herself. Never change, Viv.
  • Gustav would name his dog “Gustav’s dog.” It’s also extremely fitting that he would have a pug.
  • According to Bruce, the Winter Olympics are “Olympics for pale people.” Growing up very close to my Norwegian grandmother, my sister and I always futilely attempted to convince our classmates the Winter games were the superior Olympics.
  • Josephine Bornebusch is so funny, even when Emma isn’t given a ton to do. Her final snotty interaction with Pärson is the episode’s best laugh.

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