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Friday, March 02, 2018

Recapping One Day at a Time - Episode 5 - Strays

Well, I'm finally back after a couple of weeks of hiatus.  It was totally unplanned, of course.  I got hit hard with that cold/flu bug that has been going around and it knocked me off my feet.  I actually took my first sick day in two and a half years!  I'm still not 100% over it, as I have a wicked cough that refuses to die no matter how many cough drops I choke down.

So, as a result, I'm posting Episode 5 of Recapping One Day at a Time a week late.  I may end up doing two of these next week as I have some vacation time coming up to catch up.  We'll see what happens with that when it gets here.  For now, let's jump right in with today's episode entitled "Strays".  And, no...there are no cats or dogs in this one.

But we do see Elena and Carmen on the Alvarez family sofa draped in what appears to be a Snuggie for two.  Ah...remember the Snuggie?  I never owned one, but they seemed to be all the rage five years ago.  Penelope comes in and sees both of them huddled on the sofa and Elena explains that they are just taking a break from their big immigration project.  It appears as though Carmen is staying for dinner, as Lydia is already preparing the meal.  Oh, and Schneider is around as well and he too is staying which prompts Penelope to make the remark about how they are taking strays in.  Ah, so there's the origin of the title, though I feel there is more to it than that.

Carmen and Elena then ask if Carmen can sleep overnight, and when Elena remarks that Carmen just shares a bed with her, it causes Lydia to comment on how weird it is.  Now, having seen the season in advance, I can tell you that there is a little bit of foreshadowing to come with this little scene, but I will not spoil it for you yet.  Either way, Penelope doesn't see anything wrong with it.

Besides, when your landlord pops out of the bathroom wearing nothing but a towel, suffice to say that your 14-year-old daughter sharing a room with her best friend seems a little less bizarre.  Just putting it out there.

Anyway, after the rousing chorus sung by Gloria Estefan, we are at Penelope's workplace where it's Dr. B.'s birthday!  How exciting!  It seems as though Penelope has everything planned.  With assistance from Lori and Scott, they will have a birthday celebration that Dr. B. will never forget.

Only Lori forgot to pick up the balloons.  And Scott forgot to pick up the cake.  And poor Penelope forgot to finish hanging up the banner because when Dr. B. comes in, the banner reads "Y BIRTHDAY".  Given that poor Dr. B. has not been having a great birthday (it seems that everyone forgot it including his daughter who just called him for his Netflix password which ironically enough are the numbers that form his date of birth), it's just one more candle that refuses to be lit.  Of course, Penelope feels so bad that she decides that she will throw a birthday party for Dr. B. at her place tonight.  Hmmm...I wonder how this will effect the plans that Elena and Carmen have made for their sleepover?

Back at the apartment, Penelope and Lydia are hastily putting together a birthday party for Dr. B.  Lydia is making dinner and the birthday cake, while Penelope is putting out paper plates that read out "It's a Boy".  Yeah, I can see that they wasted no time in ironing out every detail. 

Another side plot of the episode is that Alex is selling chocolate bars for the school fundraising drive, and initially Penelope is thinking that having Alex sell them at the party is tacky...until she realizes that the party guests include Scott and Lori and tells Alex to strike while the iron is hot!  Ah, what the heck...anything to help the school get new equipment, right?

It also appears as though the sleepover is off, at least as far as Penelope is concerned.  And while Carmen seems okay with it, Elena is furious and actually backtalks Penelope.  Oh, that's not going to fly. 

Sure enough, Penelope essentially tells Elena to lose the attitude and to be on her best behaviour for Dr. B.'s party where she is expected to stay for the whole party and where she will be expected to be enjoying herself.  So, Elena and Carmen bid each other farewell with a giant hug leaving Penelope looking very confused.  I have to agree.  I mean, it's like they're hugging as if they will never see each other again.  I wonder why?

Oh, and Schneider brings over a centerpiece that looks as if it was stolen from a gravesite.  Yeah, nothing says happy birthday quite like a floral arrangement symbolizing death.  Though, in real life, Stephen Tobolowsky is 66 years old, so I'd say he's holding his age quite nicely.

Dr. B. has arrived for his party along with Lori and Scott, and as Dr. B. explains, they are his friends for the evening as he picked them up and they have no way to get back home again.  Yeah, guilt them into coming.  That's a great way to say happy birthday.  It appears as though this is the first time that Dr. B. at least has met Lydia as she appears to be flirting with him a bit.  Though the actual conversation that they have is filled with a lot of laughs and I will recap it at the end of this entry in my best lines section because it really is hilarious.  But we also learn that Dr. B.'s real name is Leslie Berkowitz.  I'll still refer to him as Dr. B. though, as it's easier to type.

Alex tries to sell chocolate bars to the good doctor, but somehow he's not interested.  And Penelope is trying to get Elena to be more warm and more delightful towards Dr. B., but let's face it.  Elena's fourteen.  And I know when I was fourteen, I wasn't exactly a ray of sunshine - especially when I didn't get my own way!  At least I can admit to that now!

Despite Elena's bad attitude, the party does seem to be going off without a hitch.  Everyone is having a delightful time as Dr. B. tells them all a personal story about how he mistook a urine sample for apple juice.  And as I try to mentally scrub the image of Dr. B. swigging down a hot glass of pee from my brain, I try to look at the screen for something else to happen.

Oh, a drunken Lori trying to hit on Schneider.  Yeah, you know what.  Let's go with that.  At least Lori agrees to buy five chocolate bars from Alex during this whole exchange.  So, at least Alex is doing well.  You know, come to think of it, between Alex, Schneider, Scott, and Dr. B., Alex may very well have the highest IQ of them all!

When it comes time to serve the cake, another hilarious scene (which I will definitely recap in the best lines section of the blog) occurs when Lydia starts singing "Happy Birthday" to Dr. B. in the style of Marilyn Monroe.  Between Lydia's diva attitude where only she sings, her thick accent, and the goofy grin on Dr. B.'s face, it's a very funny part of the episode.  There are quite a lot of laugh out loud moments in this whole episode.

Such as the moment in which Penelope goes into the kitchen and we see that Carmen is basically hanging outside on the fire escape!  I'm guessing that Elena is going to be in a bit of trouble if anyone points it out.

Oh, good old drunken Lori.  You can always count on her to announce everything - much to Elena's chagrin.

So once Penelope catches Carmen outside, she drags Elena away from the table and proceeds to yell at her for disobeying her and now orders Elena to tell Carmen to leave.  Elena insists that there is no way she can do that, but Penelope tells her that she has no choice.  After the party is over, Elena has to force Carmen to go back home.  You know, Elena seems awfully defensive about this - especially when she tells Penelope that she really has to have Carmen stay so that they can work on their immigration project.  Unless the project is worth 95% of the final grade, I don't understand why Elena is so anal about it.  Oh, but we will find out very shortly.  I'd say within the next seven minutes, anyway.

Anyway, when Penelope explains what has been going on, it actually triggers a discussion on immigration policies, and it is here that Schneider drops a bit of a bombshell.  He's actually an illegal immigrant!  Okay, so technically he came to the country from Canada on a student visa, but still...he never really went through the channels to become a proper American citizen.  I don't know.  Given how inept Schneider can be, I should be offended that he's written as being Canadian (especially with the stereotypical jokes that Norman Lear has slipped in at Canada's expense).  But I love Norman Lear so much that I will totally let it slide.  Besides, Todd Grinnell did a great job with Schneider 2.0.

I also like the fact that the episode also features differing points of view without people getting overly nasty with each other.  Scott, for instance, is all for immigration as long as it is done legally - which I completely agree with him on that point.  But then he goes into his typical snake oil persona and adds that the country is too full as it is, and therefore all the undocumented people should be forced out of the country.  Penelope, on the other hand, argues that for some of the illegal immigrants, they fled situations that were beyond their control (war, for instance), and they wanted to have the chance to have the life that they always dreamed of for themselves and their families.  It's a passionate argument that seems to get everyone's attention...especially Elena's.  In fact, it prompts Elena to want to speak to her mother in private.  It is here that we get the major bombshell of the episode.  The one which explains the title of the episode - Strays.  It seems as though the reason why Elena was so defensive about Carmen is because Carmen doesn't have a home to go to any longer.  Her parents have been deported!  Now this explains a lot.  It explains why Carmen has been around so much, and why Elena is so protective of her.  Penelope realizes the situation is serious, and has to come up with a solution, but before she does that, she must find a way to end the party.

Well, I suppose Lori passing out on Schneider's lap is a good excuse. 

After the guests have all left (and after Lori threw up in the hallway), Penelope and Lydia talk to Carmen and Elena about what happened.  The story goes that Carmen's parents crossed the border into the United States from Mexico before Carmen was born - therefore, Carmen is an American citizen, but her parents were not.  Carmen's father got sick, and they were on their way to meet up with a doctor who treated undocumented residents.  But on their way to the clinic, they were caught, detained, and deported back to Mexico.  Carmen's been on her own since, and Elena has been using an immigration project to keep Carmen at their place until they figure out what to do.  The charade has been going for two weeks, and I think to  The truth is that this is a real issue that is facing thousands of people in the United States, if not millions.  Many people are so desperate to try and better their lives and get new opportunities that they will do whatever it takes to make it happen, even though the methods might not be the proper way.  Of course, we know that the proper way can take years to achieve, and sorry to say that with the current administration in the White House, a lot of families are being split up because of this.  And poor Carmen is an innocent victim of this.

Now, Carmen does have a way out.  She does have a brother who is also American-born, and Carmen can stay with him.  The problem is that he lives in Austin, Texas - which is halfway across the country from Echo Park, California.  Which essentially means that Carmen and Elena will have no choice but to say goodbye to each other.  As much as it pains Elena, Penelope does convince Carmen to make the right choice and move to Texas.

Elena is very upset about this, and cries that she can't believe that they sent her parents home.  But Penelope corrects her and says that they sent them away.  It really is a heartbreaking episode, and there really is no happy ending to be found.  But alas, it is a subject that is a hot button issue in 2018, and kudos to Norman Lear and the cast of "One Day at a Time" for telling the story so sensitively.

It's time for Carmen to leave, and naturally, the Alvarez family is very sad to see her go.  But they provide a few going away gifts for her.  Lydia gives her a warm hug and a farewell.  Penelope gives Carmen her old duffel bag filled with some essentials and some cash to help her get started in Austin.  Aw, it's nice to see Penelope and Carmen getting so close considering that Penelope was a little afraid of her when she was first introduced in Episode 3!  Schneider is taking Carmen to the airport and he has purchased her ticket to Austin, which was very nice of him. 

And Alex gives Carmen some free chocolate - the same bars that a drunken Lori forgot to take home with her!  Well, I guess it's the thought that counts. 

So, Elena and Carmen hug each other one last time, and Elena breaks down in tears as she says goodbye to her best friend - perhaps for the last time.  And then she joins Penelope and Lydia in a final group hug, putting the close on a very good, yet very emotional episode.  If this is what it is like after the first five episodes, I can only imagine what the last eight of season one will be like!

Now comes the time for the most memorable funny quotes from the episode.  There certainly are a lot to pick from.  Here are my favourites.

SCOTT:  You know what's weird?  The bakery where you told me to pick up the cake?  I was there getting coffee this morning!
PENELOPE:  Okay, this?  This right here is why we have two stars on Yelp.

ELENA:  No, no, no.  It's not fine.  She has to stay.  This isn't fair!
PENELOPE:  She's been here most of the week.  Can she only survive in this apartment's atmosphere?

LYDIA:  Happy birthday, Dr. Berkowitz!
DR. B.:  Oh, please, call me Leslie.
LYDIA:  Why would I do that?  That is a woman's name.
DR. B:  It is also my name.
LYDIA:  Uh, that's too bad.

LYDIA:  (singing)  Happy birthday to you!
SCOTT:  Did she just say "To Jew"?
DR. B.:  Doesn't matter.  It works both ways!

SCOTT:  So, you're an illegal alien?
SCHNEIDER:  Well, we prefer undocumented.  But, yeah.  Born in the 'Couve, overstayed my student visa, forced to live in the shadows of Pepperdine University.  Took me a while to get rid of the accent, but now I can say I am sorry about that.
PENELOPE:  Wow.  You must have been very brave, Schneider, coming here with everything.  Knowing only the entire language and struggling to unlearn the metric system.
SCHNEIDER:  I sense a litre of sarcasm.

Join us next time when we see Penelope buy some new wheels...and have some fond, yet painful memories of the old ones.

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