If we’re to go by the 2020 calendar, Father’s Day falls on June 21- a Sunday. Therefore, is it safe to assume that this episode of Better Things takes place on that date? Whatever. Time for Father’s Day as we celebrate the hard-working accomplishments of those who we honor on Father’s Day: the moms.
Yeah, you read that right. So Sam assembles the Legion of Ladies as they wine and dine and discuss their lives. Whether that’s their current or past relationships, the highs and lows, and where they are now, everything is out in the open. Well, not so much from Sam, but you know she’s not as much of an open book as the others. Or so we think, as we get a glimpse at the early stages of a past relationship.
Back then, Sam had some high dreams and aspirations that she no doubt would have reached…had the guy’s mom not played such a huge role.
Whether mom was just super clingy or, like most parents, not trusting of this person who comes in to take away their baby. I don’t know. At the same time, it’s not like Sam was hurting financially. As evidenced during the talks with the divorce counselor. Sam made more money than the guy, so the advice was that she just settle.
Fat chance, because Sam isn’t one to just stay in one place forever for the sake of complacency. It feels like since things ended with Xander, this kicked off a chain reaction where Sam has…I don’t want to say trust issues because of how well things went with Matthew Broderick, but she’s definitely not that willing to open her heart. She’s like a mama bear: more interested in looking out for the safety of those around her, rather than looking out for herself.
An admirable quality, to be sure, but this can veer into the territory of being overbearing and judgmental. We saw Marion call Sam out in the very last episode how some couples do want to try and work through their problems. That’s not what Sam would do, but not everyone has gone down the same path she has when it comes to matters of the heart. Sometimes she makes the right call, and perhaps her outlook could be what prevents her from a concrete and trusting relationship.
It’s because Sam has this way of trying to get her friends to move on from their past relationships, while simultaneously tearing down any husband she meets. Why Sam chooses to make an enemy out of any guy who isn’t Rich, Marion, or Mather Zickel, I don’t know, but it’s rare that she gets called out on that. Until this episode.
LaLa’s husband, Tom, stops by to drop off the kids, and Sam being Sam, gives him the cold shoulder for being, as she says, a terrible husband. However, Tom points out the challenges that he’s faced and how he pleaded for LaLa to get help after her mother passed, but she didn’t. There’s more to Tom than Sam knows, and while she may not like him, he correctly tells her that she has no right to judge someone else’s marriage. Like Marion, people are happy to work things out on their own, without Sam’s input.
This alone would be fine, but Tom goes further, saying that Sam being divorced for so long could be making her bitter and hard. Though Sam has a snarky comeback- once Tom has gone- from the look on her face, it’s very obvious that what he said has stuck with her. Maybe not the part about being bitter, but at least the part about judging other people’s relationships because, like Marion said in the previous episode, that’s not her right.
As much as we know that Sam cares for her friends, she does often try to tell them how to navigate their relationships, despite not being in a stable, long-lasting one herself for a long time. But Tom himself’s probably no saint either, and there’s much more to this episode than this one scene, so let’s move on.
Duke and Frankie are looking over the kids upstairs and lecturing them on divorce and fallouts from relationships. It’s a fun scene and interesting to see Duke, the youngest of the Fox daughters, in a position where she’s responsible for looking after something that isn’t an animal.
There’s a great, poignant scene where the women write letters to their exes and then proceeds to burn them. It’s a great show of acting from all involved and helps illustrate that they’re alleviating themselves of the burdens that they’re carrying. At the end of the day, what they’re going through isn’t solely on them. Nor do they have to shoulder that burden alone.
I was curious if Sam would join in at all, given how she’s not prone to opening up compared to others, but she does- addressing Xander as “Hitler” and calling him out on divorcing himself from her and the kids. While Frankie still wants a relationship with her father, Sam is well past that point…well, I can’t say fully because she does at least still text him instead of having one of the kids do the communicating, but you get my point.
Side-note, when the women are all gathered in a circle and howling in the night, it’s a fun moment. Visually it looked like they were on the verge of summoning the spirit of Phyllis Schlafly. On an unrelated note, FX, I’m not getting Hulu just to watch Mrs. America, great as that show looks. But that’s another conversation.
Phil and Frankie- an unlikely pairing- have dinner together and while, at first, Frankie sees what it’s like to not be the insufferable one, Phil does soon get deep. She talks about her own upbringing and how her father kept an affair secret from her mother- even paying Phil to keep it a secret. Her father was barely around, as is Frankie’s, but the difference is that Frankie wants to have a relationship with her father.
She no doubt understands the power of the single mom, but at the same time, Frankie’s been speaking a lot about her father. Hell, she wants Sam to invite him to her quinceañera. It’s anyone’s guess if Xander actually shows up, and I appreciate Phil dropping some wisdom on Frankie, but it’s very mature of Frankie to buck the trend by trying to maintain a relationship with her father. The Fox women are very independent and have no shame in that.
Not that they don’t need men in their life- well, the jury’s out on Sam- but given how much Sam has been spurned. You can’t blame her for wanting to shut Xander out altogether. But not Frankie. It’s a great moment capped off with Phil presenting Frankie with a ring that once belonged to Phil’s grandfather.
The final scene is interesting. Max and Frankie are prepping Duke for ballet class, and while this potentially former German soldier of a ballet teacher is still a pain in Duke’s ass, she still wants to go. That’s not the interesting part. What’s interesting is when Sam pops in, I guess, just to see if the girls need a hand with anything. But no. The kids are alright. Okay, that was terrible. But in fact, they’re doing pretty well without Sam’s help.
The episode comes to a close with Sam going into a funny little bit about how the girls don’t need her anymore. Whether it’s to try and guilt-trip them- when they’re already long gone- or she truly feels alone, this can honestly go both ways. Sure, Sam would love to spend some time with her daughters after all the bonding she’s done with her friends.
Right now, though, the girls are capable of doing for themselves. It’s a reminder that there will come a time when Frankie, Max, and Duke will no longer be living under the same roof as their mother. Powerful as Sam is, she’s not powerful enough to keep her daughters living with her forever. Nor do I think she’d want to. Sure, Max dropped out and decided to stay home, but that’s an exception. Soon enough, it’ll just be Sam, and for any parent, I’m sure that’s a scary thought when your kids have left the nest.
But let’s not end things on a down note. This was a very strong episode of Better Things. It’s always nice to see Sam’s circle of friends pop by. One or two every now and then is fine, but there’s strength in numbers as well. Very good episode.
Previous reviews for Better Things can be found here.