Friday, January 5, 2018

Heartbreak Town

Season 22, Episode 35
First aired 2 January 2018

Athbhliain faoi mhaise daoibh, everybody! It’s the first episode of the new year, and large chunks of it are almost unbearably heartbreaking, so I’m going to have to keep the snark confined to the parts that don’t make me want to go rock back and forth on the floor in the fetal position while sucking my thumb. Ar aghaidh linn!

It seems to be morning, as the stools are still on tables in the pub and Cóilí Jackie hasn’t pooed in the paper towel dispenser just for craic yet. Frances is leaving Tadhg what we expect is the latest in a string of “Where the hell are you?” voicemails, and she hangs up just as Bobbi-Lee arrives for a day of, err, work. With her is Mo, who is back from her holiday on Craggy Island, and Frances greets them both awkwardly as Bobbi-Lee starts filling Mo in on all the latest gossip, most of which we suspect involves Ambiguously Gay Social Experimenter Briain. If he had just slept like Pádraig when he arrived like he was supposed to, none of this would’ve ever happened.

In the shop, Vince is walking around pretending to count things on the top shelves when Gráinne pops in to kiss his ass a lot in hopes that he’ll do some free photography of the big charity check handover tonight. Considering he somehow got deeply involved in this charity thing over a week ago, you’d think this would’ve come up before just now, but apparently not. He half-heartedly agrees, because his only other options are to continue counting tins of spaghetti hoops over and over for no reason or to go home and spend the evening with Caitríona, neither of which is all that appealing to anyone with, you know, a head. Meanwhile, Annette seems to be having diarrhea over at the till for reasons we’re sure have nothing to do with the fact that she and her husband stole half the charity money and hoped nobody would notice. She quickly rings Seán and hisses into the phone that they need to replace the money today, and of course then has to explain to him that “next week” and “today” are not the same thing, and then hangs up on him before he can pull out a lunar calendar he found on a placemat at a Chinese restaurant and try to argue that today is not actually happening until a week from Thursday.

Bobbi-Lee emerges from the toilets with immaculate rubber gloves straight from the box and a mop that isn’t even wet, so it seems she’s done her usual bang-up job of mucking out the bog. She asks Frances why she isn’t at the community center, and also where’s Tadhg, and in response she gets back a bunch of nonsense about how the community center imploded and Tadhg won a tour of a magical chocolate factory two towns over, but that no follow-up questions will be permitted about either. Just then Mo emerges from the back and points out that they didn’t get their order in today, which she assumes is because Tadhg forgot to place it. Unusually enterprising for some reason, Bobbi-Lee offers to go phone in the order, but Frances tells Mo to do it instead, presumably because every time Bobbi-Lee has placed the order in the past, all they’ve gotten was a handful of magic beans and an assortment of Dolly Parton wigs. Meanwhile, it seems Áine has been shipped off to Tayto Park for a few days of touring the Cheese ‘n’ Onion Museum and trying to weasel her way into Mr. Tayto’s will, which will certainly make it less uncomfortable for everyone if a lot of screaming and breaking things were to happen later, JUST HYPOTHETICALLY.

Amazingly, Caitríona is at the radio station doing what appears to be work for the second day in a row, proving that miracles do occur, but also that bad things always happen in twos. Amy comes in to complain that Caitríona’s terrible advice got her into trouble with Briain, demonstrating that it’s just a myth that intermittently gay people are jolly. Sorry, wait, I may be thinking of fat people. Anyway, it seems Briain is not jolly, and in fact is very cross with Amy for asking about his confusing homosexuality, so she and Caitríona get in a big fight that ends with Caitríona ordering her to shut her whingehole and stop making such a stink over a stupid interview on a pointless local radio station that nobody listens to. The best part is that I’m not even paraphrasing: she totally says this! Of course this doesn’t sit well with Amy, who’s dedicated her whole life to doing snarky Fair City podcasts or whatever this station does, and they shoot daggers at each other for a while before Caitríona tells her to shut up and go do some work.

Frances pulls up outside Stately Maggie Manor and finds the Black Widow herself puttering around in the garden, but the hole she’s digging does not seem to be large enough to bury Tadhg or any member of his immediate family, so we all relax a little. Frances curtly asks if Tadhg is here, and Maggie says no, and seems to be genuinely surprised to learn that he’s gone missing. Has anyone tried looking at Tayto Park? At first she thinks she’s lying and starts peering in the windows and listening for sounds coming from the sex dungeon, but Maggie seems so legitimately surprised by Tadhg’s disappearance that Frances then gets embarrassed and is basically like, “Well, I’m sure he’ll be home any minute. I’m not even the one who was looking for him. You were looking for him! Why did you waste my time bringing me over here in the first place?!” and so on. Well, thank God that wasn’t incredibly uncomfortable for everyone involved.

Back at the shop, Katy tells Vince that her flight “home” to “Tenerife” leaves “tonight” at “10 o’ clock.” We have no idea where, if anywhere, she’s actually going, but I think we can all assume it's nowhere in the vicinity of Jason. She claims she’ll be back to visit often, and Vince claims he’ll miss her, and then on her way out the door she literally runs into David, who is agitated and shooting Annette some seriously filthy looks. He pulls her aside and hisses that it seems only Maggie’s check was deposited in the credit union and demands to know where the rest of it is. She swallows hard and swivels her head in many directions, like an owl, apparently hoping that if she kills enough time David will forget why he came here and wander off.

Vince has hurried over to the radio station between scenes, producing Maeve from somewhere along the way, and there’s also a boy named Sam we’ve never seen before but whom Pádraig, who is there for some reason, gives a deer-in-the-headlights look. Back at the shop, Annette apologizes to David and blubs that she had no choice but to steal the charity money, what with falling behind on the mortgage and the dirty dirt birds at the National Lottery intentionally not picking any of her numbers. David presents the controversial opinion that none of this gives her the right to steal from a charity, but Annette’s airtight response is that she never thought she’d get caught. I was never good at philosophy, but I think she’s taking either a Hegelian or a Lohanian approach here. She asks if she can have one more week, giving her time to come up with the money or change her name to Gxalga Vaxygghl and move to Albania, but he says he has no choice but to tell the Gardaí about this. You may recall that he’s got them on speed dial after all those times last season he kept turning himself in for things.

Back at Radio Money Laundering, Caitríona is being sweet as pie to Amy, which has nothing to do with her wanting anything, that’s for sure. It seems Amy has a radio show called “Clever Clogs” or similar in which she interviews smart children about particle physics and such, and in addition to Sam from earlier, who won the science fair, Caitríona also wants her to interview Maeve, who got her head stuck in a bucket at the science fair. Amy, who reached her limit on how much of Caitríona’s antics she could tolerate about two hours ago, refuses, saying that it wouldn’t be fair to take time away from the winner to talk to the Ralph Wiggum of Ros na Rún. Caitríona flips out, reminding her who’s in charge of this submarine or whatever the hell this place is, and orders her to STFU and interview Maeve. Amy refuses, which is just as well since she’d probably end up just asking Maeve what it’s like to be a lesbian anyway.

Frances is looking ambiguously at her wedding photo when Tadhg shows up, explaining that he’s spent a few nights in Galway because it’s where he thought Tayto Park was. She’s annoyed but relieved, and when she tells him that Áine’s taken her crime ring on the road, he says it’s for the best, because he and Frances have got some serious things to discuss.

Speaking of serious discussions, on the air at Radio “Is This Thing On?”, Amy introduces Sam, who came in first place in the science fair with the space station he built, and Maeve, who was asked to leave the science fair and take her “eggs break when you throw them at people” project with her. Pádraig is listening intently over at Gaudi, and looks proud yet wistful, so of course we have absolutely no idea what might be going on here, wink wink. Sam talks about how he’s now on the Space Advisory Panel co-chaired by Steven Hawking and Captain Kirk, and Maeve volunteers that her mummy couldn’t help her with her project because she had the vodka trots and couldn’t get off the toilet. I’m paraphrasing.

Upstairs at the pub, there’s a definite chill in the air, and not just because Tadhg ducked when Frances threw the Christmas tree at him and it broke the window. He grimly tells her that he respects and cares about her, which is not a promising beginning to this type of conversation, and that she’s a good mother, and for those reasons he can’t ask her to stay with him. She asks him what he’s saying, and he apologizes and tells her he doesn’t want to be married to her anymore. OH, GOD.

After the break, during which we learn that beds are more comfortable when they have a mattress on them, we’re at the big check-handing-overing at Gaudi, where Briain tells Berni he’s found a flat or old refrigerator box to live in. It’s not much, he says, but he tried it out and found it’s suitable for shagging. He makes a big production out of biting her cracker, which may or may not be a euphemism, and then we see that Gráinne is running around frantic because David and his big check haven’t shown up. I’m almost positive that one’s not a euphemism.

Back at the pub, Frances tells Tadhg he’s not thinking straight, but he assures her that he’s never been so sure about anything in his life, and continues that this isn’t a sudden decision. She breaks all our hearts by asking him, “Are you not in love with me anymore?”, and there’s a long pause that tells us all we need to know, and in her eyes you can see her world crumbling. He explains that he and Maggie were in love when they were young, and that they were going to run away to England together, but that her father put a stop to it. To her credit, Frances says she’s very sorry he had to go through that, but tells him he can’t throw away his marriage and his family over a romanticized version of a silly love from his youth. He calmly tells her he wants to be with Maggie, and that’s all there is to it, and it’s clear that she’s desperately trying to keep herself together, and this is all very distressing to watch.

At Radio Nepotism, Caitríona is badgering Amy about not making the entire interview about Maeve and informs her that to make up for it, she’ll next be doing a solo interview with her. Caitríona is clearly as confused about how much of a crap people give about her kid as she is about how much of a crap they give about her. Amy calmly excuses herself because she has important work to go do and walks off, leaving Caitríona there fuming her nuts off.

Back in the local production of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, Frances calls herself a fool for being the one who kept sending Tadhg up to Maggie’s in the first place. Tadhg tells her it’s not her fault, and surprisingly he’s the one who’s remaining calm here, though I suppose that makes sense since he’s not the one who just got blindsided. Frances has shifted into Angry Snotty Mode, for which absolutely no one on earth can blame her, pointing out that this lovely breakup is the only Christmas present he bothered getting her this year, and eventually he literally throws his hands up and walks out of the room, giving her the opportunity to pick their wedding photo off the mantel and smash it on the floor. The glass breaks in a way I don’t think is physically possible given how she threw it down, but we’ll try not to get bogged down in details because the important thing here is DAMN YOU, MAGGIE.

Gráinne & co. are still stalling for time at the Charity Check Handover, and everybody ignores Annette when she arrives and starts buzzing around until she tells them she knows why David isn’t here. She starts to tell the story to Gráinne, Vince, and for some reason Berni, who has somehow inserted herself into the situation and immediately made it about how busy and overworked she is, but before she can get to the felonious part, David arrives carrying a giant novelty check for €7000. All the key players go to pose for pictures with it, and also Berni, who literally elbows Gráinne out of the way to get in the middle of the photo despite the fact this whole thing was Gráinne’s idea in the first place and as far as we know Berni has done nothing other than show up here today to complain about how busy and important she is. Are we sure she and Caitríona aren’t sisters?

Pádraig and his hot buns arrive at the radio station, and he tries to have an interview of his own with Maeve and Sam. Maeve’s contribution is that she’s glad she didn’t have to answer any questions because she doesn’t understand her stupid project but nevertheless is concerned somebody will try to steal it, and after she finishes carrying on for a while, Pádraig turns his attention to Sam, who is clearly the only one here he cares about. Sam informs us that his interests include soccer, local radio interviews, and KFC, and he and Pádraig discover that they both support the same team, Man United. (Snerk. We would have also accepted “Arsenal.”) Maeve complains that she hates soccer, because one time she got her head stuck in the mesh bag with all the balls in it, and Sam narrates that he plays for the school team, which has a game tomorrow. Suddenly the teacher arrives and it’s time for him to go, so he says his goodbyes and Amy points out that Pádraig is really good with kids, even right now when he appears to be passing a kidney stone.

Tadhg returns and there’s a long silence before he volunteers that they’ll sort something out regarding the pub and Áine (in that order) “in a few days,” although it seems pretty clear from the look on her face that Frances has already sorted out what’s happening with the pub, and it will require Tadhg’s proctologist and a lot of lube to undo it. She just sits there in stunned silence, refusing to make eye contact with him, hugging herself and slowly rocking back and forth, and for those of us who are used to steely, take-no-prisoners Frances, this is absolutely gut-wrenching to watch. When he volunteers that he never meant to treat her badly, she gets up and walks away without a word, and that’s when he sees the shattered wedding photo on the table.

Downstairs, Gráinne is banging on about how the just-booked Makes Downton Abbey Look Crap Inn has a wedding gazebo by a champagne lake and you’re carried down the aisle in a crystal coach by talking pink swans and other nonsense that seems utterly, utterly out of character for her, but which we guess is necessary in order to make the thing that happens later seem more dramatic. She and Caitríona start a big, loud discussion of the pros and cons of wedding photos, and when Frances zombies in behind the bar, they drag her into the conversation. Elsewhere in the pub, Mack says the world’s most awkward goodbye to Katy, assuring her that there’s no need to worry because he’s not going to try to kiss her, ha ha, and before they can discuss whether they’re just going to hug or also have a little light over-the-sweater action, Katy grabs a passing Frances and says she’s leaving and would like Tadhg to say goodbye to Jay. She replies that he’s upstairs asleep, but she and Mack follow her outside to say adios, or as they say in the bedsit in Dublin Katy will be sharing with three other people, do widzenia.

David stops by the shop to have a lovely chat with Annette, which consists of him telling her that he went to the police station, but then decided not to turn her in because he and Gráinne would just end up being given custody of her four to six children anyway. That last part is implied. He says he felt sorry for her and her family, and that while of course he doesn’t approve, he understands why she did it, and that by soap-opera charity thefts at Christmas standards, this one is really not that bad. (See: Fowler, Arthur.) She asks where he got the money to replace what she stole, and of course he says it’s his wedding fund, and when Annette promises she’ll pay him back magically somehow, he says she better, or else Gráinne will kill him. Everybody made it through Christmas alive, but it seems it’s going to be a bloody, bloody spring on Ros na Rún.

In front of the pub, Dee has materialized to help Frances and Mack say goodbye to Katy. After they drive off, Dee suggests they go inside to warm up and have a drink, but Frances suddenly breaks down in tears. They assume she’s sad about seeing Katy and Jay go, and talk about how it’s never easy to say goodbye but that they’ll be back to visit soon, but between heaving sobs she gasps that she can’t go back into the pub, and when Mack wonders what Tadhg’s done this time, she spits that she doesn’t want to hear that name and falls apart even more. Mack and Dee ask her to come home with them because it’s freezing outside, and she agrees, but practically has to be carried down the street she’s such a mess, and just then Maggie appears across the road and looks stricken as she sees what’s going on. Well, so much for “we’re not hurting anyone,” eh, toots?

1 comment:

  1. Frances deserves so much better. A Thadhg, a Thadhg, a Thadhg... what a terrible, stupid, irreversible thing you did! Clearly a huge mistake on his part.
    On the one hand, I'm inclined to praise Tadhg, because at least he has the guts to end a relationship he's not happy with instead of just cheating on her... but on the other hand, Frances is totally right. This is a hasty decision made out of romanticizing a love from his youth... and he broke up a family, breaking not only Frances' heart, but Áine's too, just for a lady on her death bed.
    Áine bhocht...


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