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Friday, March 16, 2018

Recapping One Day at a Time - Episode 7 - Hold, Please

Just like that, we're more than halfway through the first season of "Recapping One Day at a Time".  We'll be through this series in no time at all.  And because it's been renewed by Netflix for a third season, we'll be revisiting this series sometime next year!  How cool is that?

I hope you've been enjoying this series as much as I have.  We're on Episode 7 - Hold, Please.  And while the plot might seem like a dull one, there are a LOT of secrets revealed within the Alvarez family.  Consider this to be an episode of truths, so to speak.

And we begin with one harsh truth for a lot of veterans who have come home from combat.  Penelope is on hold with Veterans Affairs - an organization designed to help veterans book medical appointments and counseling services - and based on the fact that she has snacks around her and an entire load of laundry to fold, I take it that long waits on the phone are common.  Penelope's shoulder is acting up and she needs to book an appointment to get it looked at because if she doesn't, she will be in tremendous pain.

Now granted, if we were to sit and watch Penelope scarf down Cheetos and gummi bears while waiting for someone to pick up the phone, it would be a boring episode, so we have to have some B-plots to keep the episode going.  For instance, Lydia is annoying Elena with the insistence that she choose an escort to take with her to her quinces.  Elena wants to make the decision herself without any pressure, but Lydia keeps shoving her yearbook in her face pressuring her to pick someone.  Lydia even threatens to set Elena up with her cousin, who in Elena's words "smells like a Dorito that died in a pool of Axe body spray".  Yeah, I can see why he's such a catch.

There's also a street fair going on in the neighbourhood and Penelope's new friend, Jill, has already been down there - apparently spending forty bucks trying to win that cheap plastic lightsaber toy that she's playing with.  While she hides it in Penelope's apartment so that Schneider doesn't steal it, Jill and Penelope talk about how frustrating it is to be put on hold with the VA, and how Penelope has been waiting to get in touch with Jolene to have her book the doctor's appointment.  I can sense the frustration in Penelope's voice too.

And after Jill leaves, someone comes on the telephone line and Penelope, having the phone on speaker mode, rushes towards it to give the woman her account number...but she slips and falls, and the commotion causes the woman on the other end of the phone to put her back on hold.  How frustrating.

We also get to meet Alex's friend, Finn, when Schneider drops both of them off at home after their baseball game.  It's been said that Finn is a bit of a smart ass and that Penelope doesn't quite understand why Alex would hang around him so much.  It's a bit clear as to why that is when Finn seems to act with a little bit of sarcasm towards Penelope, but later on in the episode, you'll see exactly why Penelope has a right to be concerned.  But, I don't want to give away too much.

Lydia is concerned to see Penelope in so much pain, so she grabs the bottle of painkillers that Penelope has been prescribed (notice how Finn and Alex are present when this takes place), and insists she takes them.  Isn't this the same woman who nearly had a coronary when she found out that Penelope was taking anti-depressants?  Maybe Lydia is coming around and becoming more aware that the world has evolved since she fled Cuba all those years ago?  But then I think about how she's pressuring Elena to choose someone to take to her quinces, and I think that maybe she has a way to go yet.  But good for her for at least trying to understand Penelope better.

Alex and Finn are on their way to the street fair, and Schneider announces that he too is going to be making an appearance... one of the members singing and performing at his yacht rock band.  Unless they plan on singing old Captain and Tennille songs, Schneider just looks totally out of place with that hat! 

With everyone's plans in motion, they all leave the apartment as the speaker phone comes on and Penelope is happy that she can finally get the appointment made.  Unfortunately that excitement turns into frustration when the person on the other end of the phone thinks her last name is Phillips instead of Alvarez.  And when the person on the other end of the phone accidentally hangs up on her, it's enough to make Penelope take a bit of a fit on the couch.  Yeah, great customer service there, VA.

So after a while, Penelope gets back on the phone with the VA, she is put on hold one more time listening to the "please, hold music" on the speakerphone, and she is resorting to licking the cheese dust off of the empty bag of Cheetos because she doesn't want a single crumb to go to waste.  I guess this is a good time to reveal a secret of mine - I do the exact same thing! 

A pre-recorded message about preventable accidents plays while Penelope waits which cues in rather nicely with an injured Schneider being dragged into the apartment by Lydia and Dr. Berkowitz!  Seems that Schneider's college friends don't exactly get along as well as they used to, and Schneider got whacked in the eye by a decorative anchor!  See, a more believable story would have been a person in the crowd attacking him because yacht rock sucked, but hey, not everything in sitcoms can be believable, right?  I mean, just watch any episode of "Family Matters" after Steve Urkel changes into Stefan Urquelle to see what I mean.

Penelope wonders why Dr. B. is there, and Dr. B. explains that when he gave Penelope permission to take half a day off work to make the appointment, he thought he would do the same.  He explains it with a YOLO, and it makes me realize why I find the expression YOLO so incredibly annoying!  Dr. B. later explains that he wanted to go to the street fair.  Fair enough.  But why is Lydia with him?

Well, it's not until Penelope takes Schneider to his own apartment to fix his eye (after she tells Lydia to listen for the phone in case the VA picks up) that we get our first secret reveal.  It seems as though Dr. B. has developed a little bit of a crush on Lydia, and how he was so touched that she was so nice to him at his birthday party a couple of episodes ago.  It doesn't seem that Lydia feels quite the same way as Dr. B. does, but Lydia does acknowledge that he is a good friend at least.  Aw.  It's an almost love connection!  It's actually really funny that the music in the background changes from standard music to a love song while all this is happening!  Could this be foreshadowing?  Hmmm...

The two even bond over their shared and separate medical issues as they toast with glasses of water and pills.  My gosh, I hope when I turn 70, I don't have to take that many pills to stay alive - but I suppose it's an inevitability.  Though a funny moment does arise when Penelope comes back home, sees the scene, and Lydia explains that she and Dr. B. were only taking drugs together!  Ha!

It seems as though Penelope has done what she can do for Schneider as he appears at Penelope's door wearing an eyepatch.  Schneider is also determined to restart his yacht rock band by turning it into a pirate rock band.  Oh, sweet Jesus, Schneider, just let it go already!

Everybody leaves the apartment to go to the street fair and Penelope finally gets through to the VA which transfers her call to Jolene.  She is initially excited and she does a dance in celebration...

...until she gets transferred to a guy named Tad who has absolutely no clue what Penelope is talking about.  See, this is where the frustration lies for Penelope.  This is an organization set up to help veterans lives get better and yet it's filled with poor communication, staff members with little to no training, and lots of red tape to slice through.  Because before Tad will even help her, he tells Penelope that she has to fax the referral given to her by her primary physician - despite the fact that Penelope e-mailed it to them two months ago.  This is the same kind of crap that people dealing with medicare companies have to go through every day due to lack of funding, and it makes me angry that people have to go through so many hoops just to get treatment. 

At least there's a fax machine just five minutes away at a nearby convenience store, and Penelope uses the opportunity to buy a ton of candy bars to get her through the day without killing someone.  After passing over the phone call duties to Elena, she runs off.  And Elena manages to grab the half a bag of Cheetos that her mother did NOT eat and takes her snack to her room waiting for someone to pick up the phone.

When Elena retreats to her room, Finn and Alex return and they see that Penelope has left her pill bottle out on the table.  And this is where we learn that Finn is a bit of a moron.  He plans to have Alex steal some of Penelope's painkillers so that they can sell them to their classmates for more money to spend at the street fair.  Whoa.  Bad idea.  Very, very bad idea. 

But unfortunately Alex is at the age where peer pressure can be most tempting, and after Finn leaves, Alex grabs the bottle and seriously considers listening to Finn.  But then he hears Elena coming out of her room and he quickly disappears, bottle in hand, and hides out in Lydia's quarters, pulling the curtain shut behind him.

It is this moment that we learn the MAJOR secret of the episode.  And,'s not that she eats Cheetos just like her mom.  While Elena is waiting for Tad or Jolene or anyone to pick up the phone, pre-recorded messages urge the person on hold to talk about their problems, and Elena drops a bombshell.  She is under pressure by everyone to pick a boy to take her to her quinces...but Elena is questioning whether she even likes boys.  She even makes the claim that maybe she might like girls better. Elena's questioning her own sexuality and she's afraid that her Cuban-American family headed by her God-loving Abuelita might not understand.  This has the makings to be a great story to tell.

Unfortunately, Elena might have to explain herself before she's ready when she hears a strange sound coming from behind the curtain.  And when she opens it up, she finds Alex with Jill's lightsaber in one hand, and Penelope's pills in the other.  Hoo boy.  Looks like BOTH Alvarez kids have something to explain to each other.

Of course, both are upset.  Alex is upset that Elena thinks that he is getting into trouble by stealing their mom's pills, and Elena is mortified that Alex heard her potentially coming out of the closet.  But it seems as though Alex has had a change of heart regarding Finn's plan, and puts the pills back.  And when Alex throws his full support to Elena and tells her that he will be there for her no matter what, it leads to a nice bonding moment between them.

And that moment ends when Jolene finally comes on the speaker phone and both Alex and Elena struggle to keep her on the line until Penelope gets back, which causes Elena to hilariously pretend that she is Penelope.  It's cringeworthy to see Elena try to act like her mother, but somehow it does the trick as Penelope returns just in time to intercept the call.

Unfortunately, Jolene seems to be in no mood to help Penelope.  In fact, Jolene actually tells Penelope to call back on Monday because she is late catching her bus and she has to go.  Oh, boy...I can see this not ending well.  For Jolene.  In fact, this leads to an epic rant by Penelope against Jolene and against the VA.  And I think this deserves to be written in Penelope's own words.  

PENELOPE:  Well, then, walk me through it, Jolene.  Because I don't understand.  What I do understand is I went to war, I got hurt.  And when I came back, there was supposed to be an organization set up to help me and the other veterans get the help we need.  So I don't get why it's so hard to make a simple appointment.  And I'm one of the lucky ones.  My husband has bad knees, a bad back, and traumatic brain injury.  He's not getting help.  Partly because he's a stubborn ass, but mostly because of this insane process.  And because he's not getting help, he almost did something stupid.  I lost someone in my unit because she did do something stupid.  So, please, enlighten me, Jolene, as to why helping soldiers is less important than catching your goddamn bus.

Whoa.  That was definitely what TVTropes calls "The Reason You Suck Speech".  And Justina Machado delivered that soliloquy brilliantly.

Too bad Penelope is put on hold by Jolene again which causes Penelope to throw her phone on the floor in anger.  Damn, I'd be angry too, but smashing your phone on the floor won't get you put through any quicker.

But as a dejected Penelope begins to clean up the mess, Jolene comes back on and announces that Penelope's appointment has been booked for next Monday.  And with that, I think everyone is thrilled...especially Penelope.  Now, I'm not saying that screaming at your customer service representative will get them to do something for you, but the way that Penelope passionately argued her case - hell, if I was Jolene, I'd definitely make sure Penelope got what she wanted!  It's also a great way for the show to demonstrate just how hard veterans struggle to reintegrate themselves back into society, and how the system definitely needs to be overhauled to make it better for them.

I just wish it didn't end with Schneider singing off key to Toto's "Hold the Line".  I mean, I can see why yacht rock and pirate rock didn't last.

That's it for Episode 7.  As always, we'll end with some of the funniest lines from the episode.  Have a look!

LYDIA:  Then use your phone and Chapsmat somebody.
ELENA: You don't understand social media.  Abuelita...
LYDIA:  No, no, no.  Of course I do.  All you have to do is find a boy and twat at him.
ELENA:  I hope you mean "tweet"?
LYDIA:  "Twat", "Tweet".  Same thing.
PENELOPE:  Not the same thing, Mami.

JILL:  I try to never deal with the VA.  I stopped calling them about my punctured eardrum.
PENELOPE:  That seems like a bad plan.
JILL:  Oh, thanks.  I got it on sale.

WOMAN ON PHONE:  Did you know that over 40% of trips to the emergency room are caused by preventable accidents?
PENELOPE:  That seems high.
(Schneider enters holding his eye.)
PENELOPE:  What happened?
SCHNEIDER:  It was a totally preventable accident!  We were setting up for the show and our keytarist threw a decorative anchor at me.
PENELOPE:  Okay, I'm sorry you're hurt but it sounds like I just missed the best part of your show.

LYDIA:  Estrogen replacement to keep me young!
DR. B:  For my cholesterol so I don't die!
PENELOPE:  What's going on here?
LYDIA:  Nothing!  We're just taking drugs!

Stay tuned for next week.  The title of the next episode is "One Lie at a Time".  Sounds intriguing.  And it comes with a very special guest star!

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