In Trading Spouses, two mothers trade households for a week. They see what it's like to live in someone else's family, and that other family sees what it's like to live with her. The family members, the mothers, and the viewers then ask the question, "Is the chemlawn more noxious on the other side?" Often, the answer is, arguably, yes.
Similarly, I'm taking the place of Sher, "The Histrionic," in this week's recap, and you will certainly find that a) I don't belong here, b) I've never watched this show before, and c) I don't receive $50,000 worth of hot tubs and wide-screen TVs to be Sher's substitute 'capper. Indeed, the sky is always bluer when Sher is here. And, yet, we can only ask the time-worn question: Why do birds suddenly appear?
Paris Hilton Meets Florence Nightengale
The show opens with the front yard to a mobile home, a retaining wall made of concrete pavers, a tractor, some cows, a sign advertising cow manure, and two sleeping pre-teens. Will Paris Hilton and Nicole Ritchie arrive to torment the cows? No, that's a different show. This episode is like that show where Paris Hilton is older and wiser and on different meds. No, that show doesn't exist. However, if Paris Hilton and Florence Nightengale were to have a lovechild, she would be Samantha Pilek, and she's the new mommy for the Bowers family.
Samantha, a svelte California blonde, wakes up Katy Bowers, age 14, so as to go on their morning run. Sam runs while Katy rides alongside on one of those metal skateboard-scooter things. See--if Sher was here, she'd know what these transportation devices are called.
In the Pilek house, Katie, age 11, practices her singing while her voice coach accompanies her on guitar. The young blonde vocal coach looks like she could be Katie's older sister, and the two slouch together on the couch. The Pilek's substitute mommy, Lisa, listens to Katie and interrupts her repertoire. Lisa catches that Katie's performance lacks passion, and she decides this would be a good time to offer pointers: Stand up! Project from your diaphragm! Let it shiiiiiiine!
Katie, her spine still forming a defensible "C," gives Lisa a sneering look. We all know that, if the cameras were off, Katie would run around screaming, "I hate you! You're a dummy stupidhead!" Curled over her guitar, the vocal coach stares abashedly at the cameras and away, and then she continues strumming. The two are like Barbie and her younger sister Skipper after a really bad haircut. Discarded, they stare at the ceiling of an old toy box, their limbs stiff and tweaked every which way.
Pan to the East Coast and we're in Massachusettes with Samantha Pilek and her temporary daughter Katy. Katy Bowers is twice the size of Katie Pilek, but she's three times more kind. Samantha and Katy go clothes-shopping, and Katy breaks from her tomboy style to try on clothes that Sam suggests. Katy says that some of Samantha's "girly-girl tendencies" will stick with her and that Samantha is the nicest person she's ever met.
Lisa doesn't get along quite so well with her hosts. She complains of no one paying any attention to her and therefore decides to go outside and meet her neighbors. Meeting the neighbors, however, turns into a fiasco, as Lisa sets herself in opposition to them by immediately comparing their lifestyles, upscale California suburbia with simple country living. "You could put these houses in my entire backyard," she boasts. Then, she wonders aloud about the sameness in color among the houses: "Do they have another color in California?" She wonders if there was a mint, like a crazily enormous amount of one color paint. In defense, one of the neighbors asks, "So, what size is your trailer?" Normi, one of the Pileks's neighbors, is totally off her gourd. Abnormi would be a more pertinent name for her. In disbelief, she cranks open her mouth to the size of Lisa's trailer.
After obviously snorting cocaine in the bathroom, Abnormi comes out to talk with the camera crew. First, she is astonished about the paint complaint and, mishearing "mint," repeats Lisa's question about a "mantle" for the paint. Oh my gawsh, a MANTLE! Like, one of those shelves on top of a fireplace! Call in the National Guard! Then, Abnormi makes fun of Lisa's job. Abnormi had initially asked Lisa if, as a dental hygenist, she diagnosed "stuff," and Lisa responded that she does "dental therapy." Now privately with the camera crew, Abnormi opens her doublewide mouth, sticks out her tongue, and says, "Diagnose me!" I'll diagnose you: You're psycho.
Types of Encouragement
Samantha takes Erik Bowers, age 12, out on a lunchtime excursion. Knowing that Erik aspires to be a chef, Samantha organizes a meeting between Erik and an actual chef. At first, Sam asks Erik what he may want to eat from the menu. He can choose from fare such as swordfish, crab cakes, leg of lamb, but Erik is disappointed and only wants a cheeseburger. Samantha confesses that Erik is capable of so much more and admits that she wishes to inspire him. Erik is invited to the kitchen to cook a meal with a real chef, and he is delighted. He later says, "She knows what I want to do and wanted to do that for me." Viewers across the country resound their collective "Awwwwwww."
Lisa Bowers spends time with her temporary son, too. She and Zach head to the batting cages, since Zach wants to be a professional baseball player. While Zach practices, Lisa calls out from the sideliness, much as she did with Katy's stunted singing performance: Foul! In the zone! Come on, catch it!
At the end of their experience, Lisa very kindly tells Zach that she was happy to see what he enjoyed to do, and she thanks him for a fun time. But, Zach is not moved. He tells the cameras that Lisa is mean to him and that, were she to leave, he wouldn't miss her. Lisa tells the cameras that she's seen kids with passion, but not any from Zach. Her opinion is that both the Pilek kids are "in for a fall." Aren't we all, though, aren't we all?
Only Scooby Understands
Lisa and Jurek Pilek then visit Jurek's yacht, on which he captains and makes his living. The Pilek family friends arrive, and Jurek offers them drinks, but he forgets to offer Lisa a drink. Her response to this oversight is to quietly brood. Lisa is upset, yet again, and privately informs us that her friends are down-to-earth, which means no breast implants, no mini-skirts. She walks above deck to be by herself, while the family friends mercilessly gossip about her. Abnormi, coked out of her mind, is the first to chime in: she does therapy to the teeeeeeeeth!
At the Bowers's residence, the neighbors visit and Samantha makes yummy guacamole. Samantha is interested in knowing what Lisa is like. Robyn, one of the neighbors, says that the Bowers household has been much quieter with Samantha there. Craig says that Lisa is a "loose cannon."
Nighttime. A gibbous moon. The camera crew treats us to the horror movie scene of a shaky walk through a lonely hallway. We hear tears. They're Lisa's. She's snivelling in her room at the end of the hallway. Jurek goes to check on her, and their little black dog named Scooby does, too. He returns downstairs and expresses confusion: is she tired or upset? I want my wife back, he says.
The next morning Lisa feels it is important to tell Jurek what is going on with her. Jurek is quiet, but receptive: Was it something I said? Lisa informs him that last night on the boat he served everyone else drinks but not her. Jurek didn't know, and he apologizes. Lisa says that she didn't travel 3000 miles to be unwelcomed. Jurek apologizes again. He says he is sorry he ruined her night. Lisa leaves and tells us she feels better for having "laid it on the line."
Their Last Night
Since Samantha is leaving the Bowers house the next day, Katie wants to impress her with taking her hair down and straightening it. She shows Samantha, who exclaims, "It's gorgeous!" Erik trundles over to see the display, and Katie kicks him out, though not literally. Erik, however, pretends like he has been kicked in the balls, and he emotively clutches himself and hobbles out of the room.
On their last night at their respective houses, both Samantha and Lisa learn that their families don't just win $50,000, but rather that they have to spend the money on items they think their host family might need. Samantha cries. Living with more relative wealth than the Bowers, she feels a sense of responsibility in what she spends. On their last nights with their host families, Samantha cries and says she will miss the Bowers, hopes to spend Christmas with them, and the children also shed a few tears. Lisa, however, spends most of her last night alone with Scooby.
The next morning Samantha walks into Erik's room to say goodbye. He hugs her and tells her he loves her. She is touched. Craig, the Bowers dad, also wakes up early to hug her and see her off. Lisa, in contrast, wakes up and is completely on her own. None of the Pilek's wake up to say goodbye to her, and she stands on the front porch of the Pilek residence in the wee a.m. hours, only her luggage keeping her company, and that little voice that says that no one likes her and it's just her against the world. Trade in that voice for a new puppy, please.
Meeting of the Moms
Samantha returns to California, and the stage is set for the meeting of the moms. Lisa admits to nervousness in meeting Samantha. Samantha says she's just anxious to learn how Lisa responded to her family. They meet and sit together in big lush red armchairs. Lisa tells Samantha that she fell in love with their dog Scooby. Samantha, shocked, listens as Lisa tells her that she ordered the kids to do chores. Samantha expresses how much she and Erik bonded and later worries that Lisa might have been jealous about how much she connected with the Bowers kids. Samantha tells Lisa that her family touched her heart and that she hopes they can stay in touch. Lisa says later that she completely mistrusted Samantha's words. They exchange envelopes containing their letters to their host families and also detailing what they spent. Then, they hug. Lisa later complains about not feeling comfortable hugging Samantha. It's not a win-win with Lisa. If you're not demonstratively nice to her, you're ignoring her; if you're nice to her, she mistrusts it.
Samantha returns home and her kids rush up and hug her. They sit down and Samantha is eager to know what happened. Jurek simply growls, "Grr." Samantha mentions that she enjoyed being with the Bowers kids and that they really endeared themselves to her. She asks what her family liked about Lisa. Zach says, "No one liked her. Not even any of the neighbors did."
In Massachusettes, Lisa arrives and her dog and family hug her and greet her. They sit together on the porch as Lisa opens Samantha's letter.
There's No Place Like Home
Samantha's letter is full of genuinely kind and positive comments, but Lisa reads it with sarcasm and laughs mockingly at it. Samantha had obviously listened to what the Bowers said they wanted and awards them money to be allocated toward items they approve of, a wide-screen TV, a sectional sleeper, materials to build a deck, a jacuzzi, and a family vacation in Cancun, Mexico. The Bowers are pleased. She signs the letter, "In love and light, Samantha" and adds a postscript: "Erik, you have a tough guy exterior with a heart of gold." She says that he's like the lion in the Wizard of Oz. Erik blushes and grins.
The Pileks are not as happy. Lisa awards them items she thinks they need. She awards Katy orthodontic work. At Samantha's reading of the award, Katy's face droops. To Zach, she awards a jacuzzi, which disappoints Zach, since the award isn't really for him but for the family. Lisa also awards them new furniture for the family room, which is disappointing to Jurek, since they had never talked about furniture. "It's no good," he says.
At the Bowers household, Lisa happily says that she feels like she never left. But, a clip of her home life doesn't seem happy at all. At the dinner table, Craig and Lisa have a fight, and Craig finally says, "You're whacked!"
Making fun of Samantha, Lisa retorts, "Stay positive!"
"Shut up!" Craig yells back. The camera pans back, away from the trailer. Glinda the Good Witch has left the building.
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