If you’re like me, you’ve been on tenterhooks all week wondering how the Thibodeaux and Famiglietti matriarchs will decide to deal out the dough. My laundry’s piling up, I’m running out of clean dinner plates and I’ve scoured the internet for spoilers. *sigh* It’s no good; I can’t pretend that I gave it a moment’s thought all week. My underwear drawer is stocked, and there's not so much as a dirty coffee cup in the sink. As for the show, let's just say that I had to re-look up all the names so as not to embarrass myself by vaguely referring to Pumpkin Mom and Crazy Talkative Mom all the way through. But hey, no worries; Hepcat is all about research, so just sit back, relax, and ignore that nagging feeling that I’ve misspelled Famiglietti throughout the recap. I’ve got you covered.
Last week we met two vastly different families. The moms swapped, and many awkward moments ensued. For a boatload of detail, see my previous recap, but you probably caught it when it re-aired Monday night. If you were like me, you were expecting the new episode and did a spittake of red wine all over your white shirt when you saw what made it on the tape.
It’s Potty Time
Diane is on a mission. The Thibodeaux (plural in French, confusing in English) clan doesn’t do enough together as a family, a sin up there with “sloth” and “greed” and “gluttony” in the Famiglietti universe. The kids don’t go to parks or hang out with their parents, and the Famiglietti honor is at stake here. Diane's got a plan, though. Let’s have a potty!
Apparently, that’s New Englander for par-tay. Also apparently, New Englanders enjoy raw egg tossing, water balloon chucking and the stringing up of innocent little doughnuts who never hurt a soul in their brief, delicious lives. Brittney is skeptical at this description of fun, but is sucked in by Diane’s obvious enthusiasm for the “potty.” Although we know as viewers of the show that the party is part of the weekly formula, Diane is energized at the prospect of infecting a group of strangers with her brand of fun.
Veronica also has strong ideas for their obligatory party, and predictably, they all center around cleaning. We see a flashback of the Queen of Clean talking about her level of cleanliness, which is so thorough that you would feel comfortable licking her bathroom floor. Unless she lives on the International Space Station, I’m not willing test her lack of floor bacteria, but I’ll give her this - the woman likes a clean house. The real mystery is how much of the sterile environment is achieved by Veronica herself, and how much is due to her husband and children being whipped into action with a few lashes of her supervisory tongue.
While Arianna explains that she can’t contribute to the dusting or sweeping because of her allergies, Veronica tells us that Arianna’s lazy, always trying to get out of work. Dear little Cody gets a taste of the Queen’s wrath, though, when he grumbles about being assigned a chore, even telling his dad to take a “chill pill.” Veronica and Rich band together like old married folks to put an end to the sass, but while Rich looks annoyed, it’s Veronica who seems appalled at Cody’s language to his father. For his part, Cody seems a little startled at hearing a lecture from his synthetic mother, and the other kids squirm as they watch Cody in the hot seat. What was that advice Brittney gave to her counterparts in Peabody? Don’t make her mom mad. Not ever. But never.
Get ‘Er Done
One thing about having a lot of kids, you’ve got a lot of troops to organize. Veronica gets the kids working, pulling books off shelves and dusting behind them, vacuuming the nooks and crannies, and even scrubbing (gasp) toilets. Well, that last fell to Marc, the twenty-year-old. Since it looked like a novel experience for Marc, I’m compelled to share my own private theory that every male on the planet should be made to scrub a toilet at least once in their lives. It builds more character than most college courses.
Veronica finds her biggest obstacle is Arianna, who plants herself firmly on the couch as cleaning goes on around her. Oh, she’ll lift her feet so the vacuum can run underneath her, but other than that she’s not aiding or abetting the great Cleanup of ’04. Let’s see, on last week’s episode, Veronica told Arianna that she is lazy, although she softened it with an insincere chuckle and a grandmotherly pat on the hand. It’s like the chicken and the egg conundrum: was the girl lazy to start with, or is she secretly fuming at being called lazy and retaliating by being…lazy? Arianna (backed up by her father, so it can’t be total fiction) repeats that allergies keep her from contributing.
Veronica finds a flaw in the Famiglietti logic when she charges in and finds that mass quantities of dust bunnies have taken over Arianna’s CD and tape collection. She poses the question: if Arianna’s allergies are so bad, why hasn’t this amount of dust sent her to the hospital? She advises Arianna to have someone dust her room on a daily basis, while Arianna looks resentful and dubious. As for Arianna’s allergy trouble, chicken and egg, folks.
How To Get Banned From the Piggly-Wiggly
You never know what’s going on in the mind of a teenage girl. While Diane flutters around the grocery store gathering supplies for the party, Brittney is quiet and obedient, perhaps looking a little shy. Diane seems to be stuck on needing two of everything for the big bash, which may not sound like much, but she’s buying the warehouse-sized packages. Unless the guest list tops fifty, the Thibodeaux’s (there’s that dratted plural again) will be eating leftover hot fudge and tortilla chips for months.
Diane has a way of keeping a running conversation going while she goes from aisle to aisle, stepping up on the shelves if what she wants is out of reach. Brittney lets us know how it feels to be shopping with Diane - horribly embarrassing. She is mortified that Diane acts that way “in front of everybody in the store.” Her embarrassment peaks as Diane uninhibitedly opens a can of spray whipped cream right there in the dairy aisle. She looks around, then beckons Brittney close, telling her to open her mouth. Brittney (thankfully) removes her gum, along with her dignity, and Diane fills her mouth with about a cup of whipped cream. Instead of sucking down the frothy treat, Brittney spits a white gooey mess on the floor, much to Diane’s amusement. “Clean up on Aisle Five,” joshes Diane, and Brittney laughs along while looking like she wishes she could just go *poof* and disappear. “Brittney doesn’t know how to have fun and let loose,” Diane tells us.
They return to the house, where the rest of the afternoon is less of an ordeal. Diane and Brittney work on decorating the living room and preparing the food. Diane is impressed with the way Brittney just fell into cleaning and decorating the house without being pushed by a parent. The two seem to have had fun planning the activities and making the house look pretty, and Diane tells us she wishes her own daughter would take after Brittney. Personally, I’m not surprised that Brittney shines at getting the house ready; after all, she’s been trained by the Queen of Clean herself.
Cue the dramatic, tense music. Veronica, looking pensively out the living room window of her “new” home, wonders if the extended family will like her. Diane is visibly nervous, dropping fruits and vegetables as she tries to complete last-minute tasks. Diane admits that she “didn’t know that they didn’t have any white friends” as if she’s just been advised of that fact by the census-taker. They’re all Southerners, Diane; isn’t that more of a culture clash than anything else? As we fade to commercial, we hear the ominous sound of doorbell chimes. Can we possibly make it through the commercial break with such a buildup of suspense?
She’s Got A Million Of Them
When the guests arrive at the Thibodeaux compound (see how I avoided that nasty possessive?), Diane’s fears are put to rest when Alvin’s friends and family are normal, pleasant, friendly folk. She can relax and treat them to her conversational style, which is story upon anecdote upon joke upon digression about Diane’s world of experiences. Thankfully, the editors discard hours of tape and show us only a few punch lines - something about red beans and rice, black olives, and incomprehensible Southern accents - followed by Diane’s raucous laughter and the rest of the room playing along, looking puzzled but bemused by this plucky stranger from the North. Alvin’s sister-in-law, Frenchella, cuts line: her first impression of Diane is that she Never. Stops. Talking. At least her name doesn't sound like a character from Barbarella, Miss Frenchella.
Veronica’s brother Michael makes the comment that if the rest of the family is as fun as Diane, Veronica must be having a blast. Or she might be having a nervous breakdown, Michael. There’s a fine line there between fun and mania.
It is a staple of reality shows that such a definitive statement (“my sister must be having a great time”) means the opposite, so I’m not surprised to see that Veronica is not having a blast at Party North. When the guests arrive, she’s stealing a quiet moment to herself in Justin’s room, reading his school yearbook. Rich notices her absence, and doesn’t hesitate to make her feel needed by bellowing “mooooom” peevishly until she makes an appearance. When Veronica makes her entrance, we see several shots of guests with polite but startled smiles on their faces. Is it any wonder Veronica feels like she’s in a remake of Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?
Meanwhile, Diane is determined to be the life of the potty, and puts the kibosh on any playing of cods. I agree, pulling out smelly, nasty fish in the middle of a celebration is downright strange…oh, I get it. She doesn’t want anyone playing cards. Forgive my cultural inadequacies, I was brought up in linguistically perfect Southern California. Nope, Diane will not allow cards, she wants the group to have fun her way, by playing games. AJ gives a fervent “yes!” and the other kids rub their hands excitedly, but the adults look less enthused. Standing behind her chair, Diane grabs a startled Frenchella by the shoulders, then leans around to say in her face that everybahdy will pahticipate in her games. Now get in the yahd already. Frenchella nods fearfully.
To the surprise of the adults, the games are a hoot. Everyone seems to enjoy the novelty of a water balloon and egg toss, which I remember as a staple of summer gatherings but seems to be unheard of to the Thibodeaux clan. The best game, though, is the hanging doughnuts. Diane ties a clothesline from the front of the house to the mailbox. Dangling from the line is a doughnut for each member of the family - even the youngest preschoolers have a doughnut carefully hung at nose height. The object of the game is to be the first one to take a big bite out of the doughnut, which doesn’t sound too hard, but is complicated by the fact that Diane is bobbing the rope to make the doughnuts bounce, and they are all laughing so hard they can’t close their mouths. It’s a riot, and a hit with both kids and adults. It’s the first time all week we see Brittney with an unselfconscious, genuine smile. She tells us that Diane’s games surprised her; her own mom never entertains anyone but Veronica.
Back at the Famiglietti party, the guests are warming up to Veronica. She holds a guest’s precious little tyke while trading jokes with a beer-drinking man. After a slow start, we see Veronica laughing and meshing well with the guests; by evening, they are hugging and bidding each other fond farewells as if they’d been friends for years. There’s not much more to say except that Diane got the lion’s share of the screen time in this segment.
Pahting is Such Sweet Sorrow
Diane sits with the Thibodeaux family for a final dinner, reflecting on the experience and frequently wiping away tears. Alvin wishes they had another week to spend with Diane, and this normally quiet and passive man is moved to tears at the thought of her leaving. AJ sits at the dinner table and looks askance at the tearful adults. When Diane asks him what he’s thinking, he says he’s not ready for Diane to leave, and calls her “the nicest mom ever.” “After your mom,” Diane adds, but AJ doesn't hop aboard that train; he says nothing. AJ tells us in a voiceover that Diane’s not like his mom; she doesn’t get angry and yell at him, and he’ll be sad when she leaves. Diane reflects that she thought AJ was going to be a problem, but enjoyed spending time with him so much that he now feels like her “other son.”
What of Brittney, the introspective, oft-embarrassed teenager? Diane tries to draw her out, but Brittney keeps her eyes on her plate and mumbles a few mmm-hmmms. Diane tells her she doesn’t have to say anything, but wants her to know she had a good time. Brittney stares harder at her dinner. Diane privately admits that it hurts her that Brittney couldn’t bring herself to say anything, when she thought Brittney was enjoying herself, at least some of the time. Never one to back down from a chance for a speech, Diane tells the table that she felt so welcomed by them, it’s like she has family in Atlanta now. “I love that,” smiles Alvin.
But Brittney finds a moment with Diane away from the cameras. Although Diane tells us Brittney didn’t want to be seen or overheard, we have audio of the entire conversation. Brittney wants Diane to know that she did enjoy the week, especially being able to go out and do fun activities, something she never does with her own mom. Diane tells her she loves her, and Brittney says she loves her right back. They will be grown up so quickly, Diane reminds us. Excuse me, I have to go wake up my preschooler and give her a big sloppy hug. *wiping tears*
Enough Tears…Can We Get to the Money?
Veronica reflects how it makes her uncomfortable to delve into the financial business of another family. I admit I was too fascinated by the hot sealing wax being utilized by Veronica to pay attention to whatever filler she was spouting. God was mentioned, it was a hard decision, she thinks it’s for the best, etcetera.
Diane starts out by saying she’s been given the gift of being able to steer the Thibodeaux’s in the right direction. She knows what will make them happier. Breathe deeply, my friend; that’s good old-fashioned foreshadowing you’re smelling. But hey - maybe I’m wrong and Diane’s guidance will be lovingly accepted and cherished. Both moms share poignant goodbyes with their temporary families, and it appears this week’s social experiment has been a success.
While dramatic music drags the moment into eternity, both moms tell us they are curious to meet their counterparts and find out how the week went. When they meet, they take to each other immediately, each gushing about how wonderful the other’s family was. The stress and awkwardness of the
first episodeearly week is forgotten. Veronica tells Diane that her family made her feel very comfortable and even gave her insight into dealing with her own teenage daughter. Diane’s reply floors Veronica: she says that although Brittney never says, it, she loves her mother very much. Startled, Veronica mutters, "that child never shows it," but she seems pleased at the thought. You can see on her face, though, that she’s wondering how much lubby dubby sharing went on in the palace whilst she was on holiday. Still, Veronica admits that when she thought about it, Diane’s admonition to spend more time together as a family rang true, and she’s ready to relax her ways. Both women call it the most wonderful experience of their lives.
Waiting for the moms to return, the anticipation is getting on everyone’s nerves. Rich likens the anxiety to waiting for his wife to come out of surgery. Alvin and Brittney remark at how quiet the house seems without Diane’s laughter. But soon the moms are reunited with their proper families amid hugs and laughter. Diane’s Arianna tells us she has a new appreciation for her mom. Veronica’s Brittney tells us she doesn’t expect her mom to have changed at all. Diane gushes about meeting Veronica, while Veronica makes jabs at her family for not telling her they missed her with enough force and frequency.
Veronica tells the family about her week in a long tale of cleaning, and how nice it all looked after being cleaned, but it really doesn’t make for exciting story-sharing. Alvin and the kids tell Veronica about the games at the party, and the afternoon spent at the park. Veronica looks nonplussed, and admits that she’s “kind of a little jealous.” She didn’t expect them to have fun while she was gone, and feels like Diane stole her family away a little bit.
Let’s Do the Twist
The moms explain the show’s twist, that each mom decides how the other family will spend their fifty thousand dollars. Like all Trading Spouses families before them, this week’s crop is worried that they said or did something to anger the interloper. Will either mom flush the money down the well-cleaned privy? Let’s skip the anticipation and just see how it’s divvied:
• $15,000 for an SUV;
• an undisclosed amount for a ground pool;
• $2,500 for a flat screen TV;
• $3,000 so that Alvin can buy Veronica a wedding set;
• $1000 for a “shopping or gambling spree;”
• $1000 to Brittney to be spent in the proximity of Veronica; and
• $2,500 for AJ to put in a college savings account.
• $8,000 for Marc to buy a car;
• $1,500 for Justin to buy a go-kart;
• $1,000 for Cody to get a PlayStation 2, then whatever else his little heart desires;
• $8,000 for Arianna to buy a car (to her obvious relief);
• The rest will be for Diane and Rich to use as follows:
- add a bathroom to the upstairs;
- redo the floor;
- buy a hot tub; and
- take a family trip to Florida.
What can I say? Fifty thousand dollars goes a long way these days.
During the reveal, Diane reminded her family that whatever the envelope contained would be more than what they had, so they should not be greedy and should just be thankful. Both kids and parents in the Famiglietti family seemed thrilled with Veronica’s division of the money. Veronica, on the other hand, gripes that Diane must have fallen in love with her husband, since she seemed to gift them with things that Alvin wanted, not Veronica. She can’t buy more than a one-carat ring with a paltry three thousand dollars, and what is she going to do with a one thousand dollar shopping spree? She’d be broke in two minutes! She’s mad, and vows to never get over it. I’m annoyed, and vow to go back and edit out all the times I gave Veronica the benefit of the doubt.
Diane is happy to be back with her family and friends, and tells a crowd that she made them “crazy” down there. Her final hopes are that she touched the lives of the Thibodeaux family. It’s not all about what you have, she tells us, but who you are and who you share it with.
As for Veronica, she’s not wearing less than a five-carat diamond after fifteen years of marriage. But…she admits that Diane helped her view her strained relationship with her daughter in a new light. She is still reeling from being told that Brittney loves her, and it must have come as a surprise, since it seems to have softened her towards her daughter. Veronica tells us that she now realizes that she genuinely missed her family, and is looking forward to getting closer to them. It’s hard to tell which Veronica is the dominant personality, but I’m putting my money on seeing a gigantic rock on her finger if there’s ever an update show.
Tie one end of a rope to the front of your house, string it with doughnuts and fling it to me at firstname.lastname@example.org