With her months-long romantic imbroglio rapidly coming apart at the seams, Darlene finally made a choice between ex-husband David and new love Ben in Tuesday’s episode of The Conners. And the stealth love triangle ended as awkwardly and messily as it began.
The opening moments of Season 2 Episode 4’s “Lanford…Lanford” foreshadowed a turning point in the amusing story arc as Darlene lamented to Jackie that her dumpster fire of a personal life has left her so tortured that she “can’t eat solid foods” thus forcing her to crumble up “TUMS into baby food.” It’s certainly not helping that her eldest daughter Harris — who recently became aware that Darlene is torn between two lovers — is using the inside scoop as blackmail material.
The situation comes to a boil when Darlene experiences a roadside emergency and both of her suitors race to her rescue, bringing David and Ben face-to-face for the first time. Darlene attempts to avert disaster by pleading with David to head home to look after the kids while the far handier Ben fixes her flat tire. But David, confused by Ben’s presence and hellbent on proving himself capable of changing a flat, insists on staying put. At one point, Jackie — who has been enjoying Darlene’s romantic foibles mostly because it has proven to be a potent distraction from her own miserable existence — drives past the scene and giddily observes, “Hey, Darlene… looks like you got a big problem there! And a flat tire.”
Darlene miraculously escapes the nightmare scenario with her lie in tact. But when Darlene obliges Jackie’s request to read aloud the emergency texts she sent to both David and Ben, the messages’ polar opposite sentiments (one super-sweet, the other super basic) forces Darlene to confront a hard truth: she needs to dump David. “I’ve been so scared to stop trying with David,” she sighed, “but I have to.”
Darlene decides to break the bad news to David at his next therapy session so his shrink “can pick up the pieces while I slip out back.” But — twist alert! — David beats her to the bomb-dropping punch and announces in front of his psychologist that he is breaking up with her. Darlene is clearly thrown that spineless David would take such a stand. “By controlling the relationship, you’ve always kept me at arm’s length,” David explains to her. “And I think I’ve known that for a long time. But before I came [to therapy] I was to weak to ask what I needed. I need a partnership. I need true intimacy. I need to be heard… I don’t think you’ve heard me since I was 15.”
And to drive that point home, the episode flashes back to a vintage Roseanne scene that shows a 15-year-old David groaning to then-new girlfriend Darlene about the untenable power imbalance in their relationship — and then him lacking the nerve to actually do anything about it.
The pair’s amicable, peaceful and inevitable parting of the ways inspires Darlene to come clean with Ben about her infidelity. But with the words “I’ve been seeing David for the last month and I feel horrible!” barely out of Darlene’s mouth, Ben confesses that he already put two and two together. And to prove it, he gives her an exclusive sneak peek of the nearly-complete breakup letter he composed. However, his decision to keep Darlene on the payroll despite their romantic separation suggests — to me at least — that their split may be short-lived.
OK, your turn. What did you think of Tuesday’s The Conners? Did you see David and Darlene’s breakup coming a mile away? Did it sting nonetheless? And do you agree that Darlene and Ben will probably/likely/no doubt reconcile before the end of the season? Hit the comments!