Better Things (S04E5) “Carbonara”

As you’d expect, rain continues to fall in Los Angeles with this week’s Better Things. I have to wonder if this is the most rain that California has received since…well, ever. I keep hoping that this will be a constant on Better Things this season, and it may be just that.

Carbonara Sam has a talk with Frankie - Better Things (S04E5) "Carbonara"

Time for Sam to follow-up on the discovery of Frankie with a boy in her bed that isn’t Jason. Frankie is in the kitchen, following in her mother’s footsteps by making some carbonara. Not Mom’s Spaghetti, as I thought, but carbonara. Sam awkwardly dances around the conversation, while Frankie is up front and points out that Jason- the other boy- sleeps over all the time. She’s not trying to hurt her mother, but help her.

Carbonara Frankie doesnt want to have the talk with her mother - Better Things (S04E5) "Carbonara"

My issues with Frankie’s attitude towards her mother aside, one thing I do appreciate about her compared to Max and Duke is that she’s straight to the point. She doesn’t bullshit around and while Max may take some time getting there, Frankie says up front what she feels.

Yes, she’s still a prude to her mother, but hey, at least she lets her know it right off the bat. It’s one of the calmer scenes between Frankie and Sam that doesn’t erupt into a big fight or confrontation. Quite the opposite. Plus, Frankie is still planning on moving out. You know, because that worked out so well the last time. She has no intention of getting married because, like her mother, she doesn’t believe in it.

Well, that’s at least true. Again, this doesn’t become some screaming match like we saw between Max and Sam in “DNA,” and Frankie isn’t just writing off her mother with some passive-aggressive bullshit. It’s a frank, albeit somewhat uncomfortable, conversation that the two need to have.

Carbonara Phil talks about her family - Better Things (S04E5) "Carbonara"

We follow-up on the DNA sample from last week when Phil arrives, as Sam asks if she gets anxiety. Off the cuff, Phil says that she and Sam might not even be related which…okay. Major bombshell right there. I mean, the lack of a British accent for Sam should be a giveaway, but you can explain that away one way or another.

During a video interview- not sure what this is all about yet- Sam asks for the story of Phil’s life. Of the core characters, Phil-centered moments are not as constant as the others, but I will say that the ones we get are memorable, even when they involve an Easter Egg hunt. Still, with Sam’s parentage now possibly in question, we’re left to wait for the results of the DNA test.

Carbonara Phil at work - Better Things (S04E5) "Carbonara"

Spending time with Phil at work is a nice change of pace because, hey, we rarely get to see her in her own environment separate from Sam. We see her engage with one customer who says that he’s part of the guild- Screen Actors Guild? Directors Guild?- and Phil, being Phil, claims that her daughter is very wealthy. Who is her daughter? Cate Blanchett. Sure. Maybe if this was Blue Jasmine or Carol-era Cate Blanchett.

Carbonara Couple dances at Phils job - Better Things (S04E5) "Carbonara"

The more poignant scene here is when Phil sees an older couple dancing in the store, as if no one else is there at all. Aesthetically, it stands out from the rest of the episode and the impact this has on Phil is noteworthy, as she gets very misty-eyed as she’s drawn into this performance. Is she longing for passion like that in her life? A partner, perhaps? Okay, that one’s a stretch, but there’s something there beyond just her being mesmerized by these two people dancing.

Carbonara Duke at ballet class - Better Things (S04E5) "Carbonara"

But let’s stay with the dancing, yeah? At some point off-screen, Duke hurt one of her knees while playing soccer. That doesn’t seem to impact her ballet class at all, but her teacher- who I’m convinced served in the German army at some point- asks her to choose between dancing and soccer. I don’t recall if we’ve seen this ballet instructor before, but she is damn fierce. She manages to spook Duke, but not out of ballet.

Carbonara Instructor tells Duke to choose between ballet and soccer - Better Things (S04E5) "Carbonara"

She even asks if Duke got her period which, as last season established, she did, so the teacher believes this means she won’t grow much more. No idea if that’s how it works or if Herr Teacher here just wants Duke gone, but she sticks it out.

Sam, meanwhile, who has been just kicking it with the other parents, sets her sights back on Frankie and takes her to the gynecologist. Even though Frankie is, again, adamant that she’s not even close to that.

Carbonara Duke says to say spirits instead of ghosts - Better Things (S04E5) "Carbonara"

Before we get there, though, a couple comes over to help spruce up Sam’s home, which is currently filled with pots as far as the eye can see to catch the rain. Not to mention she’s got mold. The wife in particular is pregnant which, hey, admirable. It’s her sixth kid, but this home seems familiar to her. Or at least she thinks. Apparently it once belonged to a famous actress from the silent film era. Seems during a gathering, someone tripped down the stairs, which would explain why some of the pets are so paranoid about them.

But this ends up being a different house altogether.- the one next door, in fact. The couple take a liking to Duke, who is playing with Tarot cards. The couple offers to do a vanishing spell because they can tell that Duke believes in spirits (not ghosts). Son of a- and we just got off of Duke seeing spirits last season.

Carbonara Sam and Frankie at the gynecologists office - Better Things (S04E5) "Carbonara"

So let’s jump ahead to the gynecologist’s office. Frankie opts to go talk with the doctor alone because why wouldn’t she? Here, Sam gets a taste of what her life could be if her daughters were downright awful. It’s like that episode of Malcolm in the Middle where Lois wishes the boys were girls and sees that they’re just as bad, if not worse. Anyway, another mother decides to chat with Sam. Turns out that her life is much worse, as she’s raising, in her own words, sluts.

Carbonara Mother describes her daughters to Sam - Better Things (S04E5) "Carbonara"

Strong words, but I don’t think Mom would use them if they weren’t applicable. One of her daughters has caught chlamydia for the third time. Third time! How does that even happen? I’m not a doctor, Jim, so I have no idea. Sam has to be thinking ‘Wow, my daughters are bad, but not that bad.’ Max is the only one whose really that active. Frankie’s just starting,  as far as we know, and Duke’s a kid.

Sam’s daughters are nowhere near the level of being referred to as “sluts.” They’re assholes, yes. Without question, but they have their moments. Those moments are few and far between, but they’re there. Could Sam’s daughters eventually be like this other mother’s? It’s possible, but then the show would have to be called Worse Things instead of Better Things. Still, it’s some solace for Sam that while her girls aren’t exactly angels, they haven’t fallen off of the wagon just yet.

Sometimes it’s best to take pleasure in the little things, you know? Anyway, who wants Pinkberry?