Thursday, November 26, 2015

REVIEW: 'Mom' - Violet Having a Real Relationship with Christy is More Difficult Than She Expected in 'Sawdust and Brisket'

CBS' Mom - Episode 3.04 "Sawdust and Brisket"

Christy is thrilled when Violet tells her she wants to spend more time together and improve their relationship. Bonnie tries to make amends with her nemesis in the building, Beverly.

Christy and Bonnie have tried to mature and be more accountable for their actions since the very beginning of the series. It's a journey that has had many mistakes along the way. They created some of them while others were just life being cruel to them. Christy and Bonnie's lives are not easy. They find someway to get through the days sober and with humor. They are in a good place in their relationship right now. They no longer hate or resent the other. They are still playfully contentious with each other. But they are all the other really has left in this world.

"Sawdust and Brisket" presents a situation where Christy can put that maturity to use. Her relationship with her own daughter, Violet, has gotten very estranged over the first two season. She supported her when she was pregnant and gave the baby up for adoption. She was there for her throughout that difficult process. But after that, the two found it harder to connect. Violet learned the truth about her father. That was a painful moment of clarity that she asked for. But it didn't make her relationship with Christy any better. Eventually, Violet found happiness with a new man, Gregory. He is 22 years older than her but she genuinely loves him. Violet moving in with Gregory put distance between her and Christy. With her no longer a physical presence in her life, Violet no longer relied on that relationship. It was something no longer necessary to her. In fact, she felt better off with her mother out of her life completely. She found this new happiness and her mother only brings about pain and complications. To Violet, Christy always finds a way to ruin her life.

That was the Christy-Violet dynamic at the end of the second season. This year, Christy is struggling to manage all of these problems that seem to be keeping her from winning in life. Her problems are no where close to the struggle of going through drug withdrawal and those first few days of getting sober. And yet, they are still very real and incredibly personal to her. She wants her children to love her. She wants to be an important part of their lives. She did mess up their childhood by being an alcoholic. They could never rely on her. Even in getting sober, she continued to mess up. And yet, it's a very big gesture on Violet's part that she reaches out to Christy with some more wisdom and time apart to think. She wants a relationship with her mother. And yet, a relationship is much more complicated than the initial happiness that this moment creates.

At first, Christy is so happy to have Violet back in her life. Violet is appreciative and understanding of all the struggles Christy has had to deal with over the years. She is aware of all of Christy's problems and wants to make amends. The happiness portion of this relationship comes easy. The two can go out shopping and getting coffee without really trying. The true test comes when their dynamic is faced with hardship. They are all smiles when it comes to sitting down for dinner as a new family. Christy, Bonnie and Violet enjoy talking about Gregory - and the noises he makes after sex - when he leaves the room. And yet, all of this talking leads to Gregory learning the truth that Violet had a baby. That wasn't something he knew about even though their relationship has gotten so much stronger since the last time the audience saw them. It's a mistake Christy foolishly makes because she doesn't know any better. It's a mistake that also reverts Violet back a little bit. She lashes out at her mother just like she used to do in previous seasons over those little mistakes. To her, her mother may have just destroyed her relationship with Gregory. Christy is sorry but also at loss for what to do - considering how much she enjoyed this happiness with Violet.

And yet, the show also presents a final scene that shows that Violet is maturing as a character as well. Again, it's the easy solution for her to move back in with Christy and Bonnie following this shocking reveal. She would become a much more active part of the narrative if she was living with the two of them again. But that's not what the character wants right now. In that moment, she needs a mom who is going to support her no matter what. But she also needs to find the courage to own up to her own mistake and deal with the consequences. Christy and Bonnie would happily lie on Violet's behalf no matter what. They've done it so many times for family. It's no longer a big deal for them. They just need to be aware of the situation. They didn't know. Christy didn't know any better. It's great that Violet recognizes that. She apologizes to her mother. She acted irrationally even though she was the reason who caused this pain. But that moment also shows just how strong this new mother-daughter bond can really be. Christy comforts Violet but also gives some truly great advice. Violet is welcome to stay with them. But it could actually be more rewarding if she went back to Gregory to deal with the consequences and hopefully save this relationship. If she wants it bad enough, she needs to be willing to fight for it. That's a moment that shows just how good a mom Christy is capable of being.

"Sawdust and Brisket" has such a strong main story with Christy and Violet. It shows exactly how far the two of them have come as characters but are still capable of making mistakes. That same quality is apparent in the Bonnie subplot too - though it's not as strong as the main stuff is. It's about forgiveness and personal growth as well. She has to apologize to her neighbor, Beverly, for stealing her cat's tranquilizers during her relapse last season. It's a story where she has to build up to that big moment. She has to find the strength to apologize to this woman who she doesn't particularly like all that much. She has done more to her than just steal those pills. And yet, she finds a way to do it. She comes clean about everything she has done and promises to be a better person. It's okay for Beverly to react horribly. Money can't fix all of these issues. Bonnie truly has to be sorry for her actions and want to be a better person. Beverly does overreact a little bit because she has a connection with alcoholism as well. Her father was a drunk. That's why she is always so angry and critical of Bonnie. And yet, that's not fair. The two do manage to come to an understanding with each other. They are no longer as contentious as they were at the start of the episode. And yet, their bond is still very awkward in the end. Who knows how important Beverly will be later on this season? But for right now, Bonnie is truly making the effort to embrace sobriety again. That effort is enough to make this story interesting to watch.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Sawdust and Brisket" was directed by James Widdoes with story by Chuck Lorre & Nick Bakay and teleplay by Sheldon Bull, Susan McMartin & Sam Miller.
  • This episode had some pretty interesting and amusing music cues - especially as Bonnie walked up to Beverly's door and Violet returned home with her belongings but stopped just outside the door.
  • The tension of Violet's secret about the baby being outed comes from Gregory's own desires to start a family as quickly as possible. Violet is furious at her mother for exposing that part of her past. But she also has to decide if motherhood is something she even wants right now. She has grown as a character since being pregnant in Season 1. But is that enough to want to parent a child now?
  • It's great that both Christy and Bonnie speculate that Violet has either broken up with Gregory or has gotten pregnant again (or both!) when she announces that she is coming over for the first time in months.
  • Violet also mentions that Gregory's mother trained him well when it comes to being a gentleman. I wonder what she thinks of his relationship with Violet?