(Original post at The National Student)
The latest episode of SMILF builds on the successes of its pilot. In 1,800 Filet-O-Fishes & One Small Diet Coke, the women in Bridgette’s life expose their vulnerabilities, whilst Bridgette takes some much-needed down time.
After Larry develops a rash, Bridgette takes her son to a walk-in centre with a queue so large it takes him all day to be seen. Ex-boyfriend Rafi has to take over so Bridgette can work, and feels strongly that Larry shouldn’t be vaccinated, which is a significant blow to the character’s likeability.
For a moment I was worried that Rafi’s new girlfriend Nelson would turn out to be the driving influence behind Rafi’s anti-vaccination beliefs. Luckily, SMILF is a better show than that; Nelson (whose father is a doctor, because of course he is) is just as adamant as Bridgette that Larry should be vaccinated.
Through this seemingly mundane plot, Shaw illustrates the precarious effect of living without health insurance.
Bridgette risks missing work if she can’t get Rafi to stay with Larry, and Rafi himself could jeopardise his sobriety if he misses his AA meeting. Ultimately, the only person who can stay with Larry is Nelson, who’s under no such financial or emotional pressure.
The way that SMILF has examined class in its first two episodes has been fascinating. Bridgette tries to convince her mother Tutu that Larry needs a tablet to stay ahead, and Tutu has to remind her daughter of the cost. Yet, Bridgette’s decision isn’t portrayed as irresponsible – instead, it’s a tacit reminder that Larry’s already starting his life at a disadvantage due to their money troubles.
After Bridgette leaves to tutor her students, her overbearing suburban boss Ally pressures her into supervising her kids whilst she goes to a yoga class. Refreshingly, Bridgette doesn’t feel guilty about leaving her son with Rafi for longer; rather than give Bridgette a compulsive need to self-sacrifice, Shaw lets her character relish the opportunity to take a break.
Whilst Ally’s away, Bridgette acts out a kind of class fantasy, wearing Ally’s robe and taking a bath. She’s holidaying in another woman’s life, to the point where she even sleeps with Ally’s college-age son Casey whilst still wearing her clothing.
So far, Bridgette’s sex life has been consistently creepy and the show’s mostly played that for laughs; it’ll be interesting to see if her attitudes towards sex are examined further.
For now, we’re treated to Casey accidentally ejaculating in his own face when Bridgette throws him off her. Stay classy, SMILF.
Bridgette eventually finds Ally crying binge-eating in her car, having pretended to go to yoga so she could get some alone time. It’s an interesting parallel with Bridgette herself, who has a problematic attitude towards food and has also concealed her whereabouts to give herself chance to rest. Despite Ally’s money, you get the sense that Bridgette’s family is happier for the most part.
Bridgette collects Larry and finally makes it to her mother’s for dinner. Despite the entertaining main plot, it’s Rosie O’Donnell who steals the episode; Tutu mistakes a stranger at the supermarket for her ex-boyfriend, the man she left to marry Bridgette’s abusive father.
After a confrontation with Bridgette about chickenpox, Tutu gives into the wistful longing for a better life that her near-encounter initially provoked. Her breakdown in the kitchen, brief and subtle though it seems, is the highlight of the episode.
Although their relationship is fraught, it takes Bridgette to pull Tutu from despair, even through something as simple as watching Law and Order together.
All in all, 1,800 Filet-O-Fishes & One Small Diet Coke is a sublime experience for the viewer. Unlike last week’s instalment, which struggled to deliver anything exceptionally funny, this episode of SMILF balances its humour and social commentary with ease. If Frankie Shaw’s comedy can keep up this level of quality, SMILF will cement itself as one of the best shows of the year so far.