Monday, April 9, 2018

REVIEW: 'Good Girls' - A New Employee's Actions Jeopardize Beth, Ruby and Annie's Futures in 'Special Sauce'

NBC's Good Girls - Episode 1.07 "Special Sauce"

Business is booming and the women are living large, but a threat from one of their employees reminds them how violent Rio can be when pushed and threatens everything they've been working toward. Beth and Ruby both enjoy the shifting dynamics in their respective marriages. Boomer carries out a malicious plot against Annie that puts her fight for custody in jeopardy.

The good girls opened up their criminal enterprise in last week's episode. They realized that they needed to clean even more money in order to make a profit in this business. To clear that much cash through their system, they needed to hire more people. They needed to bring more people onboard. That was a decision that immediately came with its own consequences. The entire business was thrown into jeopardy because one receipt was lost. The more people involved in this crazy plot the more risk that comes with it. But right now, the girls are living large. They enjoy spending the money that they have now gotten by doing this work for Rio. They have decided to pamper themselves. They see a system that has been very lucrative for them. They are on the road to having all of their problems fixed. They have a solid game plan to be in this life for six months. Then, they'll get out and invest in something legitimate that can make them even richer. They see this criminal lifestyle as just a necessary move in order to get a win in their lives. And right now, they enjoy spending some of this money. Beth buys a necklace for herself that is more expensive than any kind of jewelry she has bought before. Ruby treats Stan to a nice restaurant where they have fun talking about how the food is more traveled and cultured than they are. And Annie likes being able to buy respect at a store where she gets a new suit tailored for Sadie. Yes, their worlds were complicated not all that long ago. But right now, they are enjoying the spoils of this life. They have found a way to get a lot out of a crummy situation.

Of course, it was also inevitable that all of this confidence would be short-lived for the girls. There is still so much in this business model that could go wrong. It doesn't appear that any of them have thought through the potential consequences and what they should do if any given problem arises. They are mostly just reacting whenever something bad happens. They are never really planning or putting together a solid plan for what they should do if one of their secret shoppers questions this business model. The thing that is the most damaging is the fact that they can't even tell the difference between the counterfeit money and the real bills. That continues to be a huge issue. Again, if Rio's counterfeit cash is capable of beating all of the security checks, then why does it need to be cleaned in the first place? That's going to remain a huge issue throughout this story. But right now, the girls can only tell what's real and what's fake by the color band they wrap around each pile. It's a system that has worked for them so far. And yet, it's not crazy to suspect that one of their secret shoppers would ultimately just fill out the forms hoping to get paid while returning the fake cash that was given to her. That's the exact problem that pops up here. At times, it feels like a repetitive story because it once again includes Rio breaking into Beth's house and pointing a gun at the three girls. That plot beat has gotten so tiresome. In fact, Beth should really start thinking about investing in a security system because of the amount of times he has surprised her in her own home. She should still want to protect her children from this life. The show seems to be aware of this issue by giving Beth that moment where she tells Rio to stop doing it. But it doesn't seem like much will change in that regard.

The more intriguing aspect of this story comes from the introduction of Allison Tolman as Mary Pat. It's great to see Tolman pop up in two very promising recurring roles this week. She's also appearing on FOX's Brooklyn Nine-Nine. The two roles are incredibly different. Here, she is playing a struggling single mom who is pulled into this new business. It's fascinating to see the amount of people already attracted to this event at Beth's house. She plans it under the guise of a book club. But her house is full of people. Annie has to go through an entire presentation to bring everyone up to speed on what they should be doing and what's the most essential aspects of this business. Of course, she's still stuck on the idea that they need to incentivize their employees by promising a vacation to the top earner for the year. That's an idea that Beth and Ruby don't really support. But they are also able to just toss it aside because they don't think the business model needs any changing. Then, Rio appears to share that they returned counterfeit money to him. That means one of their employees didn't do their job. As such, it becomes a situation where the stakes are abundantly clear. Either Rio will kill whomever caused this problem for him or Beth, Ruby and Annie will have to find their own solution. They choose the latter because they don't believe Mary Pat deserves to die for something she wasn't even aware she was a part of. She's a struggling parent who is just trying to care for four children after the death of her husband. And yet, she is able to piece together that Beth, Annie and Ruby have involved her in something incredibly shady. As such, she demands to be compensated to keep quiet.

Now, it's incredibly foolish that Beth, Annie and Ruby believed they could deal with this Mary Pat problem through one payment of ten thousand dollars. They know just how quickly the bills pile up. They can relate to Mary Pat as a mother dealing with financial difficulties. It wasn't too long ago when they were the ones so desperate for cash that they decided to rob a supermarket. Mary Pat is trying to take advantage of the situation because she is able to call them out on their illegal business. She has the leverage to extort as much as she wants out of them. They know that they have to keep things quiet in order to maintain their lives in this world. The show is very keenly aware that the FBI is monitoring Rio with some big developments happening there as well this week. Everything is clearly conspiring against this business model being successful for very much longer. And yet, the characters desperately need to believe that it will be their salvation. And now, Mary Pat presents as a threat who is disrupting their bottom line. But again, they act surprised when she wants monthly payments. They really shouldn't be. It just shows how naive they still are to this business. They aren't the best criminals who have created a system that can fool the police and the average person that what they are doing is legit. All it takes is one slip up in the words used to fire Mary Pat for her to realize that there is something very criminal and potentially sinister going on here. She's still alive. Beth, Annie and Ruby make the first payment. Beth refuses to turn Mary Pat over to Rio. But that kind of loyalty may be costly to her in the future.

All of this is clearly something that is weighing heavily on Beth's soul. She is unable to do anything in the middle of the night except sit on the bathroom floor. That's a somewhat surprising reaction from her. She's so confident in this business and finding ways to keep things afloat a little while longer. It's not insane for people to call her an evil mastermind. But she still needs to have that moment where she tells Dean that she's doing all of this for her children. She's doing this to ensure their future. That needs to be a key motivation. The show enjoys plot complications to ensure that Beth, Ruby and Annie can't leave this life. But it's always nice to be reminded of the pure resolve involved in all of this as well. It's also important to note the strong bond of female friendship between the leads. Right now, Ruby feels like her friends are acting way too crazily to keep this going much longer. Mary Pat is a serious threat to their business. She doesn't want to be involved in this anymore. And yet, she ultimately still comes around and rejoins the team because these girls are her family. She cares about them even though there is no blood relation. All she has to do is share one very horrifying story about the service industry to gain sympathy once more. Meanwhile, Boomer carries out his threat against Annie to have her arrested. That was such an ominous tease last week that could ultimately cost her custody of Sadie. And yet, it lands with mostly a whimper here. She does get arrested and quits her job. She's aware that Boomer is still coming after her and will need to be dealt with shortly. But she's also perfectly free to run the business just like it has been running. There's no real disruption to her life whatsoever because of this arrest - despite her now needing a full legal team.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Special Sauce" was written by Bill Krebs and directed by Sharat Raju.
  • The show is definitely exploring Gregg's relationship with Annie more so than his relationship with new girlfriend Nancy or daughter Sadie. That's the cost of Zach Gilford only being a recurring character in this world. And yet, it's still significant when a bonding session with Annie leads to the two of them getting drunk and having sex. That's an action that could be a huge deal as long as the show wants it to be.
  • Dean is still keeping up the fake cancer story even though he knows that Beth is involved in criminal activities. He does want to know exactly what she has gotten into. She doesn't feel the need to explain because he's in the exact same position she was in at the start of the season. By the end of the episode, he does find some peace with that by just recognizing she's doing what she needs to do for her family.
  • The show is being wildly inconsistent when it comes to Stan's career as a police officer. In the series premiere, it was a big deal that he got into the training academy. He's still been working as a mall cop this year. But now, he assists on an arrest and is even invited to join the elite task force being set up by Agent Turner to catch Rio. That seems like a convenient plot development to keep the story intense.
  • The arrest that Stan helped with seems to be the man who recovered for a little bit at Beth's house and then scared Sadie's bully at school. That's an important inclusion because he is aware of the girls and that they have a connection to Rio. Of course, it hasn't been previously established what all he knows about Rio's organization. So, he may just be a faint connection to everything else that is going on.
  • Retta absolutely nails the grand monologue where she details the special sauce and its required maintenance at the diner. It proves once again that that was a horrifying job with a boss who didn't care about his employees at all. It's a solid moment that shows why Ruby needs this criminal endeavor to work out. She can't go back to that life. Beth and Annie don't want her to. And thus, they treat her as a sister once more.