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Friday, March 30, 2018

Recapping One Day at a Time - Episode 9 - Viva Cuba

Hello, everybody!  Happy Good Friday to those of you who observe Easter.  For my Jewish friends, a happy Passover to you all.  And for everybody else, happy regular Friday to you!  We're back on schedule with the Recapping One Day at a Time feature.  In Episode 9 - entitled "Viva Cuba", this episode is all about being proud of where you come from.  In the Alvarez family, it's all about being proud of being Cuban-American - though one member of the family wonders if that's enough.  We'll get to that in a second.  For now, we need a bit of a sight gag to introduce the show.



Well, Schneider bringing in a chair might qualify.  After all, Schneider eats at the Alvarez family apartment so much that he may just as well move in.



Ah, but wait.  Schneider is wearing a T-shirt with the image of Che Guevara on it.  It's actually the same picture that was on a poster on my roommate's side of the room during my brief university career.  As most people well know, Che Guevara was quite the polarizing figure in history.  While some see him as a figure of rebellion and revolution, Cubans don't quite see him the same way, and the entire Alvarez family chastises Schneider for even wearing such a shirt in front of them.  Though to be fair, Schneider is a bit of a space cadet.



In fact, it's not until Alex compares the situation to that of someone wearing a Kanye West shirt at Taylor Swift's house that Schneider finally gets it and takes the shirt off.  Which leads to an awkward scene of Lydia rubbing Schneider's topless body after he apologizes.  Yeah, let's cut to the intro!  Gloria Estefan, save us!

After the intro, we find out that Elena has some huge news to share with the family, but before she can get one word in, Alex grabs Penelope and Lydia away to share his news.  He has been assigned a class project in his class where they have to do an independent study on a country of their choice.  Since he got second pick (and the first kid in front of him chose America), he decided to do his project on Cuba, delighting Lydia.



Alex has opted to film a video as opposed to writing a report (mainly because it's less work), and he wants to interview Lydia on her experiences immigrating to Cuba as a child, which Lydia absolutely agrees to.  Penelope is just happy that Alex seems to be developing an interest in school.

In fact, Penelope and Lydia are so caught up in Alex's video idea that they completely forget about poor Elena!  I have a feeling that this happens a lot.



Anyway, Penelope apologizes and asks Lydia what is up.  It turns out that Elena has been nominated for the Voices of Tomorrow program - which Lydia amusingly mistakes for the television show "The Voice".  No, Elena's referring to a competitive writing program in which only thirty students get selected in the entire country.  This makes Penelope whoop with excitement.

And when she discovers that the program is all expenses paid, it makes her whoop even louder!



Penelope is so happy that she goes to the wall of achievements in the hallway affectionately known as the Alvarez Museum.  As you can see, the wall is mostly filled up with Elena's achievements since it's implied that she is the brainy one of the family.  Apparently there's also a box filled with all of the kids' baby teeth that Penelope and Lydia tell them they will use to make necklaces for their spouses to wear at their weddings, but we learn that this is merely an inside joke.  At least I hope that's the case.

At work, Penelope is telling Lori, Scott, and Dr. B. about Elena's huge opportunity and it prompts everyone to share the dreams that they had when they were younger.



For instance, Scott had a dream of joining the X Games as a street luger.  Okay then.  Dr. B. always wanted to be a master of song parodies just like his idol, Allan Sherman.  The "Hello Muddah, Hello Faddah" guy.  I'm sorry, but Weird Al Yankovic did much better parodies.  Oh, and apparently Lori's dream is to learn to read...or so Penelope jokes anyway.  Yeah, Lori's still kind of a ditz and we wouldn't have her any other way.

When it comes to Penelope though, she says that her dream was to become a full-fledged doctor.  She was well on her way to doing that, but then Elena was born, and she fought in Afghanistan, and she made several sacrifices to help Elena and Alex have the best life possible.  She may have settled for being a nurse at Dr. B.'s office, but she's okay with it.  I don't know...I get the impression that we'll be revisiting this plot line a little later.



Back at the Alvarez place, Alex is using his cell phone to record Lydia talking about her life in Cuba.  Schneider happens to be there too because apparently he forgets that he has a home in this episode.  Again, I see this happening a lot.



Lydia is in the middle of telling a story to Alex about how when she first came to America from Cuba, she was initially separated from her beloved Berto, but the day they were reunited with each other, there was an earthquake.  Lydia suggests that the earthquake was a sign that they were meant to be together, which Schneider seems moved by.  In fact, he's so moved that he tells Alex that a cell phone camera wouldn't do Lydia's story justice.  He proposes a solution.  Schneider will help Alex film his video complete with costumes and expensive camera equipment.  And Alex decides that this is a good idea and lets Schneider work his magic.  I just hope Schneider doesn't end up doing all the work.  Alex's final grade might end up being a D minus!

But here's some exciting news!  Penelope has arrived home carrying a letter has come from the Voices of Tomorrow!  This is where Elena discovers if she got into the program.  And Elena and Lydia are so excited that they nearly bowl Alex over to get to the letter!



It seems as though it's wonderful news as Elena discovers that she HAS gotten into the program!  And much celebration and rejoicing is sure to follow...



...at least until Elena finishes the letter and comes to a stunning conclusion.  Not only has Elena been chosen to be a part of this experience, but she has been selected as the diversity candidate.  Now this should be a good thing, but Elena deduces that they only chose her because she's Cuban.  Of course, this makes Lydia excited because she thinks that they are finally giving people awards for being Cuban!  But Elena's bummed because she wonders if they only gave her the opportunity because of her nationality instead of her talent.  Penelope thinks this is ridiculous and that she should take the opportunity, but Elena is genuinely torn.  I understand her frustration a little bit, but when given an opportunity like this, you shouldn't turn it down without getting all the facts.



And you probably shouldn't put the letter in a frame and put in on the wall of achievements without consulting people first, Lydia!!!

Penelope is not sure of what to do about following her dream of being a doctor, and certainly listening to Dr. B.'s lame parody songs about honey glazed ham and zumba classes certainly doesn't help.



Make it stop.  Please make it stop.



Anyway, Penelope has decided that the time is right to pursue her dream of becoming a doctor, and naturally, Dr. B. is excited about it.  But unfortunately for Penelope, Dr. B. paints a strong picture of reality for young Penelope.  In order for her to achieve her dream, she'll be spending anywhere from seven to eleven years in medical school, which includes a residency in who knows where.  That, plus she'll have two hundred thousand dollars of student loans to pay back.  Ouch.  But hey, Dr. B. doesn't worry about that.  He'll be dead before he pays back the full amount!  Well, that's one way to look at it, I suppose.  But for Penelope, she's more confused than ever before.



You want to know what else is confusing?  Alex's video.  Schneider is setting up a green screen which means that he's incorporating special effects in the video?  My goodness, he's doing a video on Cuba, not filming the next James Bond movie!



Elena's furious because Schneider has dressed her up like Carmen Miranda.



And Penelope's not amused at having to dress up like the mascot from the Colombian coffee commercials.  As she scoffs, she looks like Cousin Consuelo.  The same cousin that she made fun of last episode in her therapy group.  The female cousin with a giant beard!  But at least she's being a good sport about it unlike Elena.



In fact, the video shoot opens up a bit of an argument between both of them when Elena tells Penelope that she is turning down the offer given to her by Voices for Tomorrow.  Given Penelope's reaction, it's like Elena told her that she walked down the street and shot eighteen pedestrians.  Penelope is outraged that Elena is walking away from a good opportunity to do something remarkable, and Elena in turn is furious that her mother can't seem to see that the reason she was offered the position was because she's Cuban.  It ends with Elena storming off to her room and Penelope running after her to yell at her some more.  I'm guessing that this too is normal for the Alvarez family.

So, Penelope and Elena are not available right now.  May as well get Lydia's close up in.



Wow...SOMEONE thinks that they're the star of the production, don't they?  But you know, Lydia does look beautiful in her costume.  And since she's 85% of the subject matter, I guess it does make sense.  At least Lydia will have some interesting stories to tell.

Sure enough, when she tells her story, she goes into a little bit of Cuban-American history which I have to admit I didn't even know prior to this episode.  Then again, I'm Canadian, and we didn't touch upon much American history, so this explains my slight ignorance.  Lydia explains that she immigrated to Cuba with her sisters during "Operation Peter Pan" (or Pedro Pan, as Lydia refers it to).  This was a period that took place shortly after Fidel Castro became the leader of Cuba, but before the Cuban Missile Crisis.  Thousands of Cuban immigrants eighteen years and younger were sent to live in the United States for hopes of getting better opportunities - hence the name Operation Peter Pan after the fairy tale where Peter Pan takes the children to Never Never Land. 



Alex comments that it must have been hard for Lydia, not because she had to say goodbye to her birthplace, but because she was the oldest and somehow she had to look after her sisters by herself.  And while Alex's comment was innocent enough, it causes Lydia to pause in her tracks and become incredibly reflective.  Penelope comes out and asks Lydia if she is okay, and Lydia lies and tells her that she's fine.  But I can tell that she's really not.  There's something that happened during Operation Peter Pan that really shook Lydia up to the point where it has made her sad.

It's not until later that night that we understand why.  Hope you have your Kleenex boxes handy because the performances between Rita Moreno and Justina Machado will make you teary eyed.  Well, okay...they made ME teary eyed.



As Lydia looks through an old photo album, Penelope sits down and encourages her to be open and honest with her about everything, and Lydia explains that filming the video made her think about her sister, Blanca.  Penelope is confused at first because she doesn't even remember a Blanca.  But Lydia explains that Blanca was her older sister.  At the time Operation Peter Pan was happening, Blanca was nineteen years old.  As a result, she was unable to take part as she was one year older than the cutoff age.  So Blanca had to stay behind in Cuba while Lydia and her younger sisters left.



Sadly this was the last time that Lydia would see Blanca as she passed away when Penelope was just a baby.  And Lydia feels heartbreak every time she thinks of her.  She was told when she was boarding the plane not to look back, but to look ahead, and she wishes that she could have looked back at Blanca one last time if she knew that it would be the last time they would see each other.  By this point, Penelope is crying alongside Lydia and it leads to an emotional bonding moment.  It's such an outstanding scene and it explains why "One Day at a Time" is doing so well on Netflix.

Of course, since Lydia's room is only separated by a curtain, naturally anyone can hear what is coming out of there.  And when Penelope opens up the drapes, she sees Schneider, Elena, and Alex listening.



As it turns out though, it was a good thing.  After hearing her Abuelita's story, Elena realizes that she was too hasty in turning down the Voices of Tomorrow, and she makes the decision that she will take the opportunity after all - as a proud Cuban!  Awwwww!



Some time passes and Alex is debuting his video for his class.  The entire Alvarez family, along with Dr. B. and Schneider have come over to watch the video, and everybody is very impressed by Lydia's story.  And for that matter, Alex and Schneider did a great job with the production!



And Penelope should stick to treating patients because she is a horrible actor!



But it's good news for all.  Elena's taking part in that program, and Alex earned his first contribution to the Alvarez Museum - his script for the project earned him an A+!  Awesome job!



Schneider actually tries to give Penelope a framed photo of the producer of the film to hang up as well, but Penelope is like...no. 



But Penelope has decided to make a huge decision.  She has decided to go back to school - but instead of being a doctor, she'll be studying to be a nurse practitioner.  As Penelope explains, it'll be a step up from the job she is currently doing but with a pay hike and with her getting her degree in a much shorter timeframe than eleven years!

So as the episode ends, we learn that dreams can be achievable, but sometimes they come with great sacrifice.  Penelope sacrificed her dream to take care of her children, but she's on her way to making up for it.  Alex put forth a lot of effort in his project and it paid off with a great grade.  And I'm sure we don't have to relist all the sacrifices Lydia made for a better life.

Coming up next week, someone gets busted for watching naughty videos on the Internet!  And it's NOT Schneider!  I'll let you ponder that while you read the funniest lines of Episode 9.  Enjoy!

PENELOPE:  I am in a good mood because Elena is up for a very competitive writing program.  It's pretty huge.  She wants to be a journalist.
LORI:  Like on E! News?
PENELOPE:  No, like someone who writes the news.
LORI:  So, like Us Weekly?
PENELOPE:  At least you're reading.

PENELOPE:  What's that?
DR. B.:  Lyrics.  I was so inspired by our conversation yesterday, I started writing parody songs.
PENELOPE:  Doc, there's, like, 20 patients waiting outside.
DR. B.:  Just tell me which one you like better.
(Sung to the tune of Salt 'N' Pepa's "Whatta Man")
DR. B.:  What a ham, what a ham, what a ham, what a mighty honey glazed ham.

ALEX:  It doesn't really seem like you're a farmer.
PENELOPE:  'Cause I'm not really a farmer.
SCHNEIDER:  It's not too late to recast.
ALEX:  You auditioned and didn't get the part.  Move on, man.

ELENA:  You're making us out to be total stereotypes.  We're not this different from everyone else.
PENELOPE:  Elena, get over the diversity thing.  A committee of people think you're a smart Latina, and they wanna help you achieve your dreams.  How is this not a good thing?
ELENA:  Because I only got chosen to fulfill their race quota!  They probably think I dress like this, and that I came over on a raft, rolling a cigar, and yelling "Say hello to my little friend!"

LYDIA:  It is I, Lydia Riera, the most famous dancer in Cuba.  I can do flamenco, salsa, mambo, pachanga, and the Funky Chicken.
ALEX:  Okay, Abuelita.  Time for your story.  Make me laugh.  Make me cry.  Get me an A.
LYDIA:  Well, when I was in Cuba the peoples would line up for blocks and blocks just to see me.  I was the iPhone of my time!

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