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Christmas: I was kind of falling asleep watching this episode (because it was late, not that I was bored), but when I heard Frankie start wailing, I got CHILLS up my spine because it was just so very Mom-like. This is a combination of the writing and the acting here, I think, but my god, that is Too Familiar. And it's weird, because you don't think of this kind of experience as being universal, but I guess it is, to some degree.

Time to make a giant list of other things I loved about the fight and/or meltdown:

  • I HAVE HAD THIS EXACT KIND OF FULL-FAMILY FIGHT. Mom getting hysterical, complete with "I told your dad, I told your dad..." and fretful "I'm gonna be sick." Brother blaming sister. Sister (me) freaking out in high pitched vocals and/or furiously blaming other sources. Dad trying to stay cool but taking strong objection to Mom ascribing fault to him (not to mention the side of "stupid technology; why do we have a computer even; I don't use it"). Oh my god, this is so eerie and wild.

  • Brick: I can't remember anything without pictures! (# me # except with blog entries)

  • When Frankie starts berating herself and blaming herself / the whole house for being a system failure (at which point Axl starts to get suitably freaked out and starts trying desperately to calm her down / make her happy and into the normal/together mom he knows and takes for granted loves)

  • Axl just has all the most incredible reaction faces in this episode. This is recurring-Glee-character-in-the-choir-room levels of background acting.

  • How Frankie wails that her grandchildren will only know her as "old and gross," and Sue's adorable and sincere, "Mom, you're pretty, you're SO pretty." Again, I had this flash like, "I have said something similar." Not for the same reason, but with the same sincerity attached.

  • (Axl also chimes in hopefully: We'll describe your beauty to our kids! / Brick: I can write about it! I wrote a good sentence once!)

  • And then the yelling stops, all of a sudden, and downshifts into worse: "I just...I can't even speak," as she drifts off to her room. AND AGAIN -- I am pretty sure I have heard that, in that tone. And that is when you get REALLY freaked out as son/daughter, no matter how old you are, and I love how well the show captures the kids' nervous confusion and worry about what to do now. Because moms do not take to bed and cry. That's terrifying.

  • SO THEY ALL STORM OFF TO COMPLAIN TO DAD AND DEMAND THAT HE FIX THIS

  • Axl: Do you not hear her? Do you not hear your wife?? Why are you just sitting there? (AW)

  • FURTHER AW @ Axl trying to offer himself up for hugs and hair petting, even trying to pull her limp arms around him

  • Sue, 1 round of failed comforting later: You have to fix this! // Axl: Yeah! You're the father! If you're not gonna provide us with a lavish lifestyle, the least you can do is fix Mom. // Sue: It's true. I just found out that we're on the poverty line. There's a chart at college.

  • Mike being like, "I do not deal in hysterical women. It'll pass." (not an exact quote, unlike everything else here that is wild but true)

  • All the kids suddenly swaming him on the couch, tugging and pulling and shouting at him to comfort her, be compassionate, do something, until Sue's aggressive pushing accidentally knocks him off the couch.

  • At which point she freezes and then flees the scene as if from an angry giant (Axl: "Run, Sue! Run to the bathroom with the lock that works!" / "There isn't one!!")

  • And AW at Axl jumping in between the fleeing Sue and Dad with his hands out, physically blocking Mike. Not that Mike has or would literally ever raise a hand to anyone, but this protective big brother stance? It tickles me all the same

  • Luckily, nothing ends a fight like banding together to dispel a puddle of rotten-smelling perfume.

Also, the ending, with Mike giving Frankie a "present" consisting of the old, pre-digital family photos because he "stayed up after [she] went to bed" looking for the box until he found it, is super-sweet and a great example of that chemistry I was talking about. He doesn't deal in hysterical women, if he can help it. But he does fix things for them in his own way. And boy, does he love his wife.

Now, as long as they eventually get their hard drive photos back, this is a really sweet bookend -- they coudn't fix everything, but they could fix a part of it, maybe the most important part. Losing 7 years' worth of family photos forever is still too steep a price to pay for this kind of heartwarming ending, but if there is a larger master plan in the works... I dunno, it makes it much easier to appreciate this for what it is.

P.S. Frankie's Christmas dress is amazing and I want it. Very elegant.
Less elegant, but hysterically accurate in the Mom realm: grabbing a fistful of bras out of the hamper and giving them the sniff test to see if any are clean enough to wear in a pinch when you're super pressed for time to get out the door.

Other Episode Thoughts:

  • Axl + Sue as roomates = HYSTERICAL!! I may have watched this subplot 3x.

  • Not least because I really, REALLY enjoy it whenever Axl accidentally-on-purpose is nice to / does nice things for her, like help her catch popularity from being in his proximity

  • Thanks for permanently getting "tonight is tonight / tomorrow's tomorrow" stuck in my head. Curse your catchy club music and nonsensical lyrics!!

  • Otherwise, IDK how to feel about Frankie's practice being bought out by the weird new MegaCorp with weird new corporate rules.

  • LEXIE IS SO ADORABLE oh my WORD I can't even talk about it, she's too precious and by far the best thing to happen to this season (and Vegan Sean has been pretty great)

  • Though I will say I SUPER loved the episode where Sue tries to keep up with new roomie's rich spendthrift ways before finally bursting out "I'm poor!", complete with a litany of ways she wring every drop of value (literally) out of her toiletries, and saying she understands Lexie wanting a non-poor roommate. To which Lexie is SO GOOD AND PURE OF HEART that she not only refuses, she gives up a Taylor Swift concert without Sue so that she can go sit outside the stadium with Sue. FRIEND GOLD.

  • Also Lexie, trying to defend that she's not really rich: "Is it because I have a horse? Because he's really old."

  • Axl in business attire is...super weird and unnerving, but I appreciate tying his internship back to working at "your old stomping grounds, Dad, Little Betty."

  • AXL + HUTCH AND THE RV LIVING SITUATION

  • brb laughing forever that Mike & Sean's first kiss was each other at a dark basement party (I...I really feel like it is relatively difficult to mistake Sean for a girl. Probably also Axl, but between the skinny frame and curly hair I can't be sure). This is an oldie but a goodie as far as sitcom tropes go

  • HUZZAH at the pictures reappearing (though I am still confused as to how they disappeared in the first place without the whole computer melting down. You can't permanently delete pictures in one click unless they were already in the recycling bin!)

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