Tensions between Jackie/Becky and Darlene over the potential revival of the Lunch Box came to a boil in Tuesday’s brutally funny, Thanksgiving-themed Conners, triggering an act of violence not-so-subtly foreshadowed in the episode’s title, “Slappy Holidays.”
After getting coerced by guilt-trippers-for-hire Mark and Mary, Jackie and Becky reluctantly agree to hit pause on their feud with Darlene and attend Thanksgiving dinner at the main house. As if the chances for fireworks at the gathering were not already sky-high, Dan extends an invitation to gal-pal Louise (Katey Sagal), to which she playfully responds, “You want me at Thanksgiving… people will talk.” Oh, and Harris’ perpetually stoned BFF Odessa is also attending. What could go wrong?!
“Well, it’s 4 o’clock, turkey should be ready, let’s not make this any more unpleasant than it has to be,” an ever tactful Jackie announces upon her arrival, before turning to her high school archenemy Louise and hissing, “Oh, great — you’re here!” We then learn the origin of the bad blood between the pair when Jackie recalls the time her former schoolmate sabotaged her “rifle routine” at their senior talent show because Louise’s garage band “played too long.” And to drive home just how wounded the experience left her, Jackie grabs a broom and performs the ill-fated rifle routine in its entirety (what can’t Laurie Metcalf do?).
Dan quickly intervenes and delivers a dose of tough love to his sister-in-law in the form of the episode’s best zinger: “Here’s a hard truth you’ve needed to hear for some time now. Nobody wins a talent show twirling a toy rifle. Never happened, never gonna, move on!” Jackie swallows the chill pill and agrees to “play nice.”
Although her tenuous cease fire with Louise holds, Jackie’s beef with Darlene flares up the moment the family sits down for dinner. Cue the rapid-fire insults. My favorite: Becky calling Darlene “an old bitter rat in a curly wig.” A dinner delay caused by a slow-roasting turkey moves the action into the living room, which is where the episode’s first bomb is dropped: Darlene learns that Harris lied to her about Odessa’s wonky living situation (she lives alone, which means Harris’ frequent sleepovers have been unsupervised). Jackie — who has been hitting the tequila hard all night — accuses Darlene of being a bad parent for “sleeping around and neglecting [her] kids.” She also takes her to task for assigning herself the role of “the all-mighty decision marker,” before going for the jugular with this beauty: “You think you can replace Roseanne as the mom of this family? What a joke.”
A riled-up Darlene happily takes the bait. “You want to talk about my mother,” she screams at Auntie J. “She spent her entire life trying to fix you. And every time she picked you up, you fell down. Why? Because you’re a loser, and you were the bane of her existence.” That last part pushes Jackie over the edge, as she extends her hand and slaps Darlene across the face. The violent outburst leaves the family shaken, and prompts Dan to finally intervene. His last-ditch diplomatic mission pays off: Jackie and Darlene apologize to each other, and Darlene goes a step further and signs off on* Jackie and Becky’s Lunch Box gambit. (*Or as Jackie puts it, she “rolled over after being forced by others.”)
And with that, peace appears to be restored in the Conner household. Well, relative peace. In the episode’s closing moments, Harris announces her intention to move out because, as she points out to Darlene, “You guys are drunk and fighting and slapping each other.” Well, she’s not wrong.
What did you think of “Slappy Holidays”? Do you agree that it ranks as Season 2’s best episode (so far)? Weigh in below!