Episode 5: The Wishbone
By: Carlos Uribe
Suburgatory is a show about a teenage girl who is stuck in her version of hell, the suburbs.
The entire first season had largely dealt with Tessa's growing issues with not knowing her mother until it all built up to her making contact with her grandmother. The season premiere had began with Tessa trying her best to connect with her missing parent and it added a layer of meaning to the theme song. That theme went to the background but it was always there. Tessa as a character has always been partly defined as the girl who never met her mother. It is such a strong definition to have but it's also one that this episode decided to change. It spent most of the episode building up to the moment where Tessa finally meets her mom after sixteen years of living. It starts off with a simple promise: Tessa goes to the city in order to spend Thanksgiving with her grandmother and mother. She's supposed to meet her mom for the first time over the dinner. When Tessa arrives at her grandmother's building, she braces herself. She's preparing herself emotionally and mentally for the moment where she and her mother meet for the first time. I don't think it needs to be stated that meeting her mother is one of Tessa's most significant moments in her entire life. She knocks on the door and her grandmother answers with assurances that Tessa's mom will be there soon. The episode holds out the promise but the threat that Tessa's mother won't show up is very much there.
Tessa's mother doesn't show up. In an episode of heartbreaking moments, that moment where she leaves her grandmother's apartment without having met her mother is probably the most powerful one. It is such a sad moment and the viewer is left thinking that Tessa's mother flaked. That is until we see the scene of why exactly she didn't show up: Tessa's mother knocks on George's door in Chatswin. Tessa's mom had messed up the information and had assumed that Tessa was going to be waiting for her in Chatswin. It was a big misunderstanding on her own part. George is furious with Tessa's mom because she messed up big time. When Dallas thinks that he's being too mean, he points that Tessa's mom's irresposibility hurts a lot of people and she always acts as the victim in order to make people forget that it's her fault. George realizes that he has to call Tessa in order to tell her about the mix-up. The one problem I have with the episode is that Tessa's narration makes it seem like she doesn't know her mother is at home and yet she addresses her mom by name when she gets there. It just confused me a bit on whether the call got through or whether Tessa had just guessed that her mother arrived at the wrong place.
The entire series up to this point had built up to that one scene where Tessa meets her mom. It's a simple scene: the mother is surrounded by people that aren't related to Tessa. Tessa addresses all the ones she can see before finally acknowledging her mom. This is a moment she had built for herself up for in the beginning of the episode but the disappointment had crushed her. Tessa escapes from the scene by going up to her room. Tessa's mom only follows once Dallas talks some sense into George and her. Tessa and her mother seem to connect in a pretty good scene but the show can't help but cut to a shot of George sitting on top of the stairs right next to the room. He can hear them laughing and it's noticeable that he's barely keeping it together. He claims later that he won't be an obstacle but he might not help but become one. The Wishbone's main plot followed Tessa's emotional roller-coaster ride when she meets her mother and it handled it just about perfectly.
That's not the only real drama we get in this episode. Malik is getting perfectly well with Lisa's mother and this is bugging Lisa. Lisa absolutely hates her mother and she's simply not happy that her boyfriend is able to be friends with her. Malik is invited over to the Shays for Thanksgiving and this signals the end of their relationship. When Sheila accidentally sees a naked Malik, the two manage to not make it uncomfortable with each other. Lisa happens to see what happened and she's not willing to be accept it. When her entire family backs Sheila, Lisa just loses it. She can't be with Malik because it's like he's been accepted by the family. She claims that it's because she can't lose the image of her mother catching his naked body but it really ties into what that scene led to: the family and Malik accepting it. In the act of accepting it a natural, it's as if Malik is another member of the family. Lisa hates her family and she can't have a boyfriend whose a part of it because she would hate him by extension. The two break up because Malik got along too well with Sheila.
Suburgatory had an episode that had a lot of serious drama going on. Tessa meeting her mother is not only an important moment for the character but a moment that the entire show had been working towards. Lisa and Malik breaking up is a significant plot development for both of them. It could have been an easy episode to mess up. That the series actually managed to knock it out of the park not only in being funny but in the emotional department and you get an epsidoe that becomes an instant classic. The Wishbone did so much right and so little wrong.