The ongoing thread weaved throughout this current season of Better Things has been Sam’s need to unwind and decompress. She’s going through a lot of stress. More so than previous seasons, she can’t get Xander out of her head. On top of the stress from work and at home, Sam’s inability to put the past behind has kept her from getting a good night’s sleep, among other things.
After having been told to see a therapist last week, Sam makes significant progress on this week’s Better Things. While things start off innocent enough with Sam cooking dinner with the girls and engaging- sort of- in a game of Jeopardy with Phil, things get tense later. See, out of nowhere, Frankie demands to know why Sam left her father. It’s interesting that Frankie doesn’t refer to him as “Dad,” but her father. Nothing out of the ordinary, yes, but just something I find a tad odd.
Anyway, the tension is broken when Phil literally breaks one. Breaks wind, I mean. It’s a quick way to diffuse the tension and get a laugh out of the others. Plus, it saves Sam from another uncomfortable conversation. Phil may not have it altogether- as we’ll see later- but there are times when she can come through in a pinch.
Briefly, during a conversation with Max, it’s revealed that, among other things, Sam has a safe. Given how much her daughters burn through her money, you can’t blame her for wanting to keep some things out of their grasp. We’re introduced to it here because Max needs a pair of boots for when she goes to meet a friend. You know how you could’ve gotten the money for your own boots, Max? A job. A job that you’d have alongside taking classes in college.
Okay, I get that Max has dropped out, so there’s no point in dwelling on it, but I’m just left wondering what she’s got left going for her at this point. At the very least, I do like that she again has an interest in photography. Hopefully she can make a career out of that.
Sam finally attends her therapy session with her doctor and old friend David Miller, played by the man himself, Matthew Broderick. Sam and David have a past from a camp that they both attended. Like the party scene last week, this is one of the few moments when Sam genuinely gets to unwind. There’s great chemistry between Broderick and Pamela Adlon that shows how far this friendship goes back, yet David never crosses into that territory of trying to restart the fire.
He maintains a professional attitude and is here to listen to Sam vent. This allows Sam to unload about the dreams she’s been having about Xander, the ongoing sleep issues, and the overall stressful situation that is her life. David suggests that there could be some residual feelings, which would make sense. If the sex scenes are any indication, Sam hasn’t fully been able to put Xander behind her. After all, when asked what she would say if she saw Xander, Sam asks why he didn’t just drown in a puddle of diarrhea.
Never say that Better Things is above blue humor.
But it’s true that Sam still has some leftover emotions from her past relationship. She does ultimately call Xander and the two agree to meet up once and for all, even though you can tell that Sam’s heart isn’t into it.
Before we get to this, we do have to talk about Duke. In two scenes, she goes through a pretty huge turn of events. First off, we’ve got Phil hitting Duke with her car while the young girl is on her skateboard. When I first saw Duke on her skateboard, I half-expected her to wipe out. Instead, Phil runs into her. However, Phil can’t own up to that. Sam would tear into her. Plus, it would just prove Marion right that Phil doesn’t have it altogether anymore.
However, since Duke is still young and impressionable, Phil is able to convince her that it was her own fault instead of Phil accepting the blame. She does do the right thing in surrendering her car keys to Marion, though, in exchange for unlimited Uber rides for life. Why Phil went with Uber instead of Lyft is anyone’s guess, but at least she acknowledges that it’s not good for her to be on the road.
Plus, while Sam may be in somewhat denial over Phil’s condition, Marion just cut out the middleman…er, middlewoman, and just went straight to Phil herself.
We aren’t finished, though. Whether this happened naturally or as a result of the car crash, it seems that young Duke takes that first step towards womanhood when she apparently gets her period.
In a lesser show, this moment would henceforth become the focal point of the episode. Frankie would have that heart-to-heart talk with her sister and chances are we’d spend the bulk of the remainder of the episode here. But it’s not until Duke mentions that she’s really hurt that Frankie actually gives a damn, because at first she’s more focused on watching television.
But then Frankie does something you don’t see often from her: be supportive. She takes Duke upstairs and…that’s it. From there, we jump back to Sam, but I want to reiterate how we don’t need to see them talk. We as an audience know that Frankie is going to help Duke through this sudden revelation. Despite how immature the girls can be at times, when they do decide to cut the shit and be mature, it shows. It’s unnecessary, I feel, to watch the talk because we’ve seen this done many times on television before.
What matters is Duke’s initial reaction to what’s happening and how Frankie chooses to be supportive to her. At least, that’s how I read it. Were it not for the quick line from Frankie at the end of the episode, this would be the last we heard of Duke having her period until it was brought up in a later episode. It’s a strong moment that gets across so much in a very short amount of time and without making a big, sappy deal out of it like many a sitcom would do.
Back to Sam, though. She does indeed get the boots and underwear that Xander likes so much, and though she gets in position on the bed while he jerks off…this is the end of the line for the two of them. When Sam throws away the boots, she’s putting Xander behind her, hopefully, forever. Despite how hesitant Sam was before she finally went to the room, she’s ready to move past this. Here’s hoping that she finally does, and that she can, at last, get a good night’s sleep.
Of course, when she arrives home and asks for a tampon, she learns that Frankie’s last one was given to her youngest daughter. So you know, there’s that.
All in all, a great episode.