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Friday, 16 of April of 2021

Life Unexpected – “Parents Unemployed”

“It was real.”

Lux wants to talk to Eric about the other night.

Unjustifiably inappropriate

This week’s episode of Life Unexpected decided it was time to show the lighter side of an SVU episode. It’s not always about locking underaged girls in a basement or using a position of authority to permanently scar or continually reopen gaping emotional wounds in a fragile young girl. It has to start somewhere cuddly and sometimes it begins with a simple car ride with a stranger to an undisclosed location only to find out said stranger is in charge of all kinds of little girls. And then he takes his shirt off. At school. In a classroom walled with glass. Surrounded by your daughters.

The episode itself wasn’t all about pervy Mr Daniels and his “I wish I knew how to quit you” attitude towards Lux. The episode in general is about failure. Cate is a failure after being fired from the show that had her name in the title. Baze is a failure because he hasn’t chased his heretofore unspoken desires to be a financial advisor (what?). Jamie is a failure because Portland is no place for minorities so it’s time to write him out of the show. Seriously. The guy was unceremoniously written out of at least this episode by announcing he’s too poor. And I don’t see anyone else on the show that doesn’t have skin that could be described as either milky or pasty (even poor Natasha was flung far, far away from our oddly-named cast).

But, because if there’s a theme to this series it’s that we follow family sit-com tropes, not everyone is a failure for very long. No, the moral of this story: if you can’t win, settle. Also, Lux is a cheater.

I knew this episode was going downhill from the beginning (and by the way, seriously, when can we have a “Previously On” that doesn’t encompass the entire series? It steals my life.) when Cate, masking her feelings about unemployment, seems chipper to her family but flings a mixing bowl after they leave and breaks down in tears. Most shows would stay on her, milk the drama a bit, demonstrate how upset she is. Instead, they decide to cut the scene really early, specifically right after the flinging and in mid-chortle of sobbing. It was weird and, rather than allowing me to feel sorry for Cate quietly suffering the collapse of her career, I laughed. Not that I don’t normally laugh at these people but she might as well have choked out, “NARM!”

To complete the trifecta of fail, Lux is literally failing out of school. There is a thread throughout this episode that Lux is not smart or that she has hidden intelligence. Cate actually says to her, “Under all those hats and scarves, there’s some smartness.” Has Lux not been the most intelligent person on the show (except for Ryan) this whole time? Has she not essentially been a MENSA candidate compared to her wards (except for Ryan)? I get that she might be failing because of all the melodrama happening around her all the time and she’s distracted or bored with the education or any number of things. But unsmart? Are you going to try to sell me on that? Has her time since the demise of the Sage-for-Your-Age Collective (aka the at-first-seemingly-well-adjusted group of foster kids including Bug and Tash) actually made her stupider? Is just the mere presence of Cate and Baze’s buffoonery killing her brain cells? It’s Great Expectations, not rocket science. If you can’t take the time to read the book, watch a movie.

The other failure plots are oppose each other their ridiculousness. Baze’s quest to get a job as the burned down bar is a bust (insurance won’t cover rebuilding it) leads him to an interview to be a financial advisor. Apparently, Baze has always harbored an aptitude and interest (and a degree) in economics. The bar was just a way to avoid setting himself up to fail in his father’s footsteps. You probably thought Open Bar was a refutation of pa’s line of business but you would be wrong. It is just a way to avoid crushing failure but now, it’s time, to settle into being bland. And he’s pumped for it. Doesn’t make sense at all, does it?

Meanwhile, Cate is understandably upset as her professional dreams die and she is constantly insulted by her agent, competing radio stations, and, most importantly, by Ryan who finds work for her as a producer on the show she was fired from. Her frustration with Ryan, both in his staying on the show without her and his misguided (or at least poorly sold) idea that she would want to help the show that shoved her aside, comes out at first in a conversation laden with references to sex (his cohost is a fake virgin, her other job offer wouldn’t allow for her to have sex with her husband) but then devolves into her shouting out loud. Like her and Baze fighting out loud. Did I mention that she was also guilted into speaking at career day at Lux’s school? Cate’s life sucks. But, after Ryan saves the day at the school function and some coaxing from her husband that the job will be just fine (how can you not listen to the only sane person on the show?), she settles for being an underpaid producer. Why? Because she has low self-esteem and that would create the most drama for the upcoming season. While Baze’s settling is completely unmotivated in respect to how his character has been established, Cate’s settling, though completely depressing, is truer to character.

Lux cheats on a test because the entire English department uses the same exam across the board for Great Expectations and Math brings it home. Before this episode, if you were to ask me what Math teaches, I seriously would have told you algebra. Never would’ve guessed English. Thrown off by his name truncation.

The highlight of the episode for me, though, was Mr Eric Daniels, aka the stranger Lux rode around Oregon with in the dead of night.

Mr Daniels keeps ending up wherever Lux is, whether at school, at Baze’s, or at functions. One might argue with me that Mr Daniels tries to push Lux away as best he can, attempting to avoid her, trying to extricate himself from any situation that might lead Lux to believe he is at all interested. I almost believed it, too. But he engages her. Now, I get it: Lux looks older for her age and is a very pretty girl (I take solace in the fact that Brittany Robertson is 20 in real life) but the moment you hear the girl you spent the evening with is 16, all systems should be shut down. I don’t care how much she begs or pleads or rationalizes togetherness — total shutdown. It’s inappropriate. Bottom line. You don’t discuss how you felt that night. You don’t offer explanations. “Dear, you are 16 years old and that’s the end. I am a teacher; you are a student.” You know what you don’t do? Hold her hand alone in an empty gym and tell her the feeling was real. Preposterous. Inexcusable. Lecherous. Next thing you know, Mr Daniels will try to convince the paramore he’s statutorily raping to kill his ex-wife so they can be together forever. And when Lux is on trial, Cate will make it all Baze’s fault.

So what do we learn from Life Unexpected this week? When your dreams are hard, you should settle. Don’t use your resources (why couldn’t Math help her study?). And romancing a minor is fine as long the feeling was “real.” I’m used to watching depressed people walk into their own disasters on Mad Men but this is ridiculous.

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