Welcome back to the riveting saga of Barbie Mom leaving the safety of her plastic dream home and entering the confusing, cruel and boring world known to the rest of us as Real Life. Meanwhile, I can only assume that our Country Mouse Mom has gone Disney, since birds burst into song in her presence and woodland creatures sigh with delight at the sound of her sweet voice. But most importantly, this is the episode where we find out how they spent the money. Let’s meander our way to the big finish, shall we?
Barbie Versus the Dog
I have to level with you: this recap is about ninety percent Colleen Verruto and her vapid attempts to appear normal on television, and only ten percent Chrystal Norton, who is wise, soft-spoken and rational. But it’s not me; blame FOX. Blame the universe. Blame whoever put this woman on the planet to torture us with her inanity and complete lack of depth.
As we return to Colleen “experiencing” life with the Norton family, we learn that she’s dissatisfied. She feels the need to lay down the law. People are going about their business and doing their chores without her getting her pinkified nails in the pie, and dammit, she’s not having it any more.
She calls a family meeting to establish the new pecking order in the house. She wants to be the Mom in the family - you know, the one who tells you what to do. She doesn’t want any more cow eyes from Ben or Nikki for their absent momma. If she tells them they need to wash their hands, they had better get their jean-clad behinds to the sink. I’m noticing a distinct lack of “yes, ma’ams” from the children this time; clearly, the respect has ran out the door screaming “Come home, momma!”
Now we get to what’s really bothering Colleen. She wants the dog potty out of the yard. Ben looks bewildered, then states the obvious: there’s no dog potty in the yard. “Oh, the dog doesn’t go potty?” Evil Barbie Mom counters. Yes he does, Colleen, but most pets can’t use a toilet, and most people call their dog’s business feces, or excrement, or something less savory. Heck, even kids call it poop or crap, Mommy Poopface. Whoopsie! I feel my naughty self taking sides in this pointless discussion! *stabbing self with spork*
Barbie Versus the Teen
While Colleen is brushing her hair and drooling over how “pretty” it is, Nikki lets it slip that she’s heading out to the homecoming game later that day. Colleen goes into pampered girl overdrive. She wants Nikki to get her hair done, have her makeup put on by a professional, go shopping for new clothes, maybe a manicure…Nikki looks more and more like a suffering teenager as the girlie plans unfold. Instead of all the primping, she’d rather be hunting - but she was raised to be polite, so she plays along. This girl was born into the right family, the way I reckon it.
However, Nikki’s out of luck this week. Her mom can’t protect her from the force of nature that is Colleen on a shopping spree. We see (thankfully) a montage chopped into a series of Colleen chirping “Cute!” “That’s darn cute!” ad nauseum. Actually, she said cute eleven times. I counted. So you wouldn’t have to. That’s my job.
After purchasing one of those new-fangled shawls that are identical to the assortment from the seventies my mother still keeps in her downstairs closet, Colleen takes Nikki in for a manicure and pedicure. This might have been fun and relaxing, if Colleen hadn’t spent her time making baffling comments on how Jesus had his feet washed and praised the women for their work, so the pedicurist is to be revered. I’m surprised she didn’t demand the woman take down her hair and rub ointment on her feet with it. While the pedicurist shoots Colleen a dirty look, Colleen winks and smiles at her. I think I’ve figured it out…Colleen doesn’t “get” people.
In the car on the way home, Colleen can sense that all is not well. Nikki sneaks looks at herself in the mirror, looks dejected, then stares determinedly out the window in pure teen angst mode. Colleen compliments her, pets her hair a little, but can’t get her to open up. Nikki complains that she feels like she’s wearing too much makeup. Colleen sympathizes, asking if there are girls that wear a tons of makeup at school. “I think that’s so gross,” Barbie Mom adds, dripping with makeup even as she speaks. She seems to realize how stupid that sounds, and tries to backtrack by saying it’s different for her, since she’s a momma. Nikki can’t stop herself from shooting her a look of disgusted disbelief before turning back to the window. No doubt her real mother’s voice was echoing in her head: “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.” *at all…at all*
After a day’s primping, Nikki has upswept prom night hair and big makeup for the grand event, which turns out to be riding in the back of a pickup truck to the game with her friends who probably didn’t even put on a clean shirt for the occasion. Before they can set out parade-style to the game, Colleen finds Nikki to add the perfect accessory to her outfit - her J-Lo sunglasses. “Tell her how good they look,” Colleen orders Ben, who giggles and says they look big. “They do not,” snaps Colleen. The three take a digital photo with the specs, then peer at the tiny screen together. Nikki says she doesn’t like them. Colleen gives in irritably, muttering to herself. I don’t think anyone has gone against Colleen’s cute edicts before. In fact, I’d venture to say that Barbie Mom has lived her life in a cute-centered fashion.
The teen convoy begins, and Nikki can be seen in the back of the truck, nattering with friends. Nikki relaxes a bit now that she’s away from the embarrassing spectacle of busty Barbie mom, but a shrill voice can be heard over the crowd: “Nikki! Nikki!” Visibly mortified, Nikki turns her back on the crowd to hurriedly look busy by grabbing the person sitting next to her in the truck. If this were a teen movie, she’d be sitting next to the shy but hunky guy who has secretly admired her all year; since we’re mired in reality, she‘s sitting next to her dog. Fido provides more than adequate cover, and soon they’ve safely passed Colleen screeching on the sidelines.
The Shirking Hostess
It’s a new day. Or maybe it’s later the same day, it’s not clear. Crows pick at roadkill on the road outside the Norton compound. Why the heck are they showing us this?
Colleen explains that there will be a Norton family shindig at six o’clock sharp. The Nortons must really be on the ball, because they show up early for the party, and Colleen is thrown into a complete tizzy. She’s (gasp) naked when the first group of relatives arrives as she’s getting out of the shower. Not that they could see or anything; she is just ticked to have to rush through her beauty regimen. She frets that she’s not being a good hostess - which makes her feel “like a weirdo” - and fusses at David to explain her absence to the growing crowd of relatives. I don’t know why she’s worried, since the extended family seems happy to stroll around in the dog potty garden drinking beer.
Dressed and coiffed at last, Colleen is even more jittery in the kitchen. “I feel like a total loser,” she confides, waving a can of refried beans wildly. No food has been prepared, and she has passed from mildly nervous to shaky, jittery nervous in a can‘t-even-put-tortilla-chips-in-a-bowl-kind-of-way. Nikki takes pity on her. Remembering that Colleen practically wet herself over the beauty of the striped pink shawl, she figures she might like to see Nikki wear it to the party. Colleen relaxes visibly at the sight of the shawl, and tells Nikki she’s “cute” for the umpteenth time. Throwing around those cutes really seems to calm her down.
Nikki urges Colleen to leave the safety of the kitchen and meet the family. There were quite a few Nortons assembled, from adorable grannies to kids in all shapes and sizes. But thanks to editing, we only see Colleen meeting some backwoods cousin with a long, scraggly beard and a camouflage bandana. Colleen asks a city slicker question and camo cousin treats her like a she’s got a bug on her face. No doubt the footage of the grannies pinching her cheeks are on the editing room floor.
There’s more party footage, but it boils down to this: David Norton breaks out the guitar and sings a song he wrote about his wife, and Colleen freaks out when a fly gets near her.
Just Go Home Already
The week is over, and Colleen is preparing to leave. As for her one required task, to decide how the Norton’s money will be spent, she’s not worried. She knows exactly what they need. Heck, it’s a no-brainer, she tells us. I hear the heavy, weary tread of reality TV foreshadowing, much like a drunk returning home after a hard night’s drinking.
As Colleen reflects on her experience, she finds she has learned much about herself. For example, she has discovered that she hates being bored. She could never spend her days cooking and washing dishes. I’ve got to hand it to that plucky little plastic momma - she really has found herself. Too bad she’s a empty-headed insecure git. It really doesn’t matter what I say because she’s going back to her Barbie Dream House to live her fulfilled life. That’s what makes her happy, doesn’t it?
Colleen hugs the kids, gushes a bit about her wonderful time, and gets all chummy with Nikki, whom she terms her new “cell phone sister.” She gets the requisite hugs, but the Nortons are focused like a laser on the important question - when does their real momma get home? Buh bye, Barbie.
Chrystal and Sad Sack
In California, the Verruto brood is getting ready for school. While the older kids get dressed and make themselves breakfast, Chrystal notices a distinct lack of Ronnie, who was supposed to wake up the demon-in-training, Vinny. You remember Vinny, don’t you? The child who was plunging the toilet by himself whilst laughing maniacally?
Alexis heads off to investigate, and we find Vinny and Ronnie fast asleep. Vinny has spent the night with dad, and once awake and halfway coherent, Ronnie admits he shared a midnight sugar orgy of ice cream and doughnuts with his son. Why? Ronnie lives in fear of being disliked by the hyper munchkin. Whether it’s the effect of late-night sugar on his system or just the lost sleep, Vinny is one miserable kid this morning. He cries and whines throughout the morning rituals of getting dressed, eating breakfast, getting in the car - you know, the hard stuff. Chrystal fumes as Vinny is cared for by his older siblings, not his father, who has already slipped off to the relative safety of his computer. That sweet, sweet computer who has never rejected him for saying no once and a while.
Chrystal tells Vinny he will be going to bed early that night. The problem is, it’s really up to Ronnie to get him in bed, since he’s sleeping in the master bedroom. Does anyone else wonder why this is? In any case, Ronnie doesn’t even grasp what a reasonable bedtime should be, noting that Vinny usually stays up until ten or eleven. Not to mention that he’s allowed to ingest a thousand calories of straight sugar as a bedtime treat. Vinny’s manic behavior is starting to seem reasonable. Somewhere, a first-grade teacher is slamming her fist down onto her coffee table and screaming, “I knew it!”
Chrystal advises Ronnie to put his foot down, several times. He squirms and stalls, but in the end, gives in. Operation Make Vinny Sleep is on, people!
Where’s the Party?
It’s time to meet Colleen’s friends and family. Chrystal greets the guests at the door because Ronnie is once again ensconced in his office. Although Chrystal admits to being nervous, the family seems to be mixing well, complimenting her on the food, engaging in chit-chat. What can you say about a forced social situation without any freak-outs, drinking, or just plain odd behavior? Everyone must have been normal, since we only see snippets of the party interspersed with shots of Ronnie at the computer. They need money, the modern-day Scrooge reminds us. No par-tay for the Ronster.
That’s Ronnie’s cue to hog the camera for a moment. Grab the tissue box, because he’s a man on the edge of a nervous breakdown. He needs money; everyone depends on him bringing in the cash; he’s under tremendous pressure; he wishes he could spend time with his dear, precious children. Dear lord, please don’t let him burst into tears yet again or I may have to start sticking pins in this voodoo doll dressed in a black wifebeater and ugly denim baseball cap. *aiming pin*
And yet, in the midst of his maudlin thoughts, his cell phone rings with the news that his prayers have been answered in the form of a “financial angel” who is pouring cash into his business. Rejoice, Ronnie. Your family’s ardent worship of mammon can continue unchecked.
The Quilt of Family Love
Chrystal gathers the Verrutos in the kitchen and announces an activity they can work on together. If each member of the family will prepare a quilt square, she will sew them together into a quilt to present as a gift to their mother. Everyone embraces the idea enthusiastically, even when told they should choose a piece of material that has sentimental meaning. The boys find old sports uniforms and the like in their closet, but Alexis chooses to cut up a treasured stuffed animal to contribute to the quilt. Seeing her hesitate with the scissors on the back of the stuffed tiger’s neck is enough to make a grown woman reach out and hug her child hard enough to make her squeak. Hypothetically.
Freed from the pressure of work, Ronnie participates wholeheartedly in the quilt-making. The kids are obviously thrilled to be spending time with Dad, too. It’s an all around awww moment. Forget the investor - Chrystal is the real angel to bless this family.
As she prepares to depart, Chrystal reflects on how hard it was to spend the other family’s money. She knows she wants to unite them as a family, but it’s not easily bought. In this, as throughout the show, Chrystal come across as an intelligent, thoughtful, and wise person who is genuinely trying to do the right thing. Ronnie looks positively renewed when he thinks of Chrystal’s influence over him during the week. He seems to sincerely appreciate her efforts to get him more involved in his children’s lives. I predict the glow will last - at least until the next work crisis.
When Insecurities Attack
Chrystal is looking forward to meeting Colleen. Colleen, not so much. While Chrystal is expecting to talk about the experience, Colleen is worried that her kids liked Chrystal better than her, and will rip her life into shreds. Wha-huh? Where did that come from? Apparently, there’s no psych test to pass before appearing on this show.
At first, the women laugh nervously, hug, and tear up together. Chrystal talks about being homesick, but the conversation begins to sour when Chrystal tells Colleen that Ronnie cried when she left. Barbie Mom isn’t liking the sound of that. It gets worse when Chrystal tries to reassure her that her family missed her, and that she has made strides in getting Ronnie to be more involved in helping with the kids. That plastic smile on Colleen’s face is starting to look a little like a snarl.
Colleen confesses that she’s worried the kids won’t want her back, but Chrystal tells her they miss her terribly. Colleen perks up, and perhaps we would have ended on a happy note, but Chrystal adds that after her heart-to-hearts with Ronnie, she thinks things are going to get better. Colleen doesn’t like the reminder that this woman has had intimate conversations with the man who couldn’t be bothered to sleep in her bed for the past three years.
Home, Sweet Home
Chrystal returns to her family, latching onto David in such a tight hug he’s in danger of choking. She cries hysterically. It seems she was keeping a lot bottled up, and her cup overfloweth...way overfloweth.
In stark contrast, during the taxi ride home Colleen tells us diva-like that she hopes her family has a new appreciation for her. She arrives after dark to find her family camped out in the driveway, huddled under blankets. Who wouldn’t be touched at such a display of loyalty and love?
The kids tell her to close her eyes, then lead her to the surprise they made. Colleen giggles and plays along, until Alexis mentions that it’s something Chrystal helped them made - a quilt. “Shut UP!” Colleen manages to squeak out. As an expression of gratitude and appreciation, it fails miserably.
Colleen can only see what the quilt represents - how she fails as a traditional mother, since she can’t sew, or cook, for that matter. Alexis brings out some homemade ice cream, and Ronnie drones on about a recipe Chrystal taught him. By now Colleen is sitting on the couch with a grim expression, snorting derisively as the strikes against Chrystal pile up: she cooked, she sewed, she did things with each of the children. As if any regular mom could be bothered with those boring activities. Colleen doesn’t do bored, you know.
That Alexis is one sharp little tack who’s got her mother’s number: “My mom wanted us to feel miserable without her. I think she was jealous of Chrystal.” I couldn’t have said it better myself, Alexis. Take comfort in the fact that Colleen thinks she is exposing you to more important, “heartfelt” things in life, like hungry children and the homeless. Never mind that you had to sacrifice your stuffed tiger, and mom couldn’t be bothered to notice. Ronnie admits that he can’t even admit to Colleen how close he got to Chrystal. As for Colleen, she whines bitterly that Ronnie doesn’t treat her any differently, despite Chrystal’s hints that things would be different.
News Flash: Money Matters
Colleen reads Chrystal’s letter. Well, first she snipes that she hopes Chrystal was intelligent enough (said with an eyeroll and a self-pitying sigh) to realize that they need a kitchen table. Chrystal apportions the money as follows:
- $1,000 for each kid to spend on items they want;
- $6,000 for Colleen and Ronnie to spend on a vacation;
- $40,000 to spend on bills, and any extra to go towards family activities.
Colleen calls the amount allotted to the children outrageous, since they already “have everything.” After some discussion, Colleen admits her real beef with Chrystal’s letter - she’s been upstaged once again. Colleen admits that in her letter to the Nortons, she blew it. Hmm, what could that mean?
How Bad Did Barbie Blow?
This is how Colleen divided up the Norton’s money:
- $5,000 to be tithed to the church of their choice (which is a nasty little jab, since they don’t attend church regularly);
- $12,000 for house repairs, specifically, adding a basement for protection from hurricanes (yes, I said hurricanes, in Tennessee); and to finish the ”landscaping” in their yard (read: clean up the dog poop);
- $3,500 to fix the broken-down cars in the family;
- $500 for Chrystal and Dave to go out on a monthly date for the next year;
- $3 per week will go to Nikki for a year (this for the girl who makes $40 per week for completing her chores);
- $2 per week will go to Ben for a year;
- the remaining funds will be used as the Norton family sees fit.
It’s not long before Ben, the youngest, asks how Chrystal spent the Verruto money, and Chrystal tells them each kid got a thousand dollars. It’s official; even the ten year olds can tell that Colleen’s division of the money is lame. I’d like to know how you can build a basement under an already established house, personally. Using only marital telepathy, Chrystal and David decide to give their own two children $1,000 apiece since the cat is out of the bag. The thought may have also crossed their minds that their kids had to put up with Colleen for a week, and the money is well-earned. Ben plays “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” on his violin - a delight to the uncritical ear of a loving momma, but screechily annoying for the rest of us.
In the final moments of the show, we see Ronnie perusing Chrystal’s letter in secret. He says out loud that it wasn’t about the money - “it never was.” I beg to differ; before he gained an investor, he was a pile of goo sobbing about money day and night. But let’s put on our blinders for a moment. Ronnie and his children appear to have gained a lot of wisdom and insight from the experience. Colleen, not so much.
You do the hokey pokey, then you turn yourself around. That's what it's all about. firstname.lastname@example.org.