Recap, 11/22/04: The Snake Wrangler Versus the Vegan Vixen
It’s confession time: I have no problem with eating meat. And by no problem, I mean that I could quit at any time. Really. And as long as we’re letting our hair down, I have another confession: although I live in California, my family is from Louisiana. It doesn’t mean that I can’t recognize an overbearing, controlling parent from any state of the union. But it does mean that the sight of a dried alligator head isn’t going to shock me as much as the sight of children being forced to drink green sludge. If that was confusing, you missed the latest episode of Trading Spouses. Read on, my friend.
Real Women Wrangle Snakes
We begin the episode in Thibodeaux, Louisiana, home to the Loupe family and many, many alligators. The Loupes are Cajuns - you know, those misplaced Frenchies from Nova Scotia who found themselves the subject of a Longfellow poem. Nowadays, they inhabit Lousiana’s Iberian peninsula and live happy, productive lives without ever facing down a plate of brussel sprouts. Sounds pretty nice, if you ask me.
First we meet the matriarch of the Loupe clan, Diana Tregle. She appears very feminine with her waist-long hair and soft-spoken voice, but this is no Southern belle to be waited on hand and foot. She’s a boat captain, a snake wrangler, and owner of a swamp tour operation. She looks quite capable of wrangling the gators herself, but sticks to selling their preserved heads in the gift shop. The family lives on a bayou in the swamp, and runs the business from their backyard. The alligator-filled swamp behind their house that they call a backyard.
Next we meet a blonde bombshell named Diego, who has the long flowing locks of a metalhead while retaining the accent and slow speech of a native patois-speaker - sort of a Cajun Fabio. True story: Diana fell in love with Diego when he was nine years old, and now they’ve been married for twenty years. Diana tells us that after finishing school, she couldn’t find a man in her village who didn’t have a lot of baggage, so she “had to go a generation down.” Diana does appear to be older than her husband, but that’s all the info we get. I’ll leave the math up to the experts. Diego seems a little laid back, but he wins points with me by being able to say specifically what he likes about his wife without making it sound like a backhanded compliment. Believe me, that‘s rare on these shows.
Their only child is Zamariah, or ZZ for short. Diana admits that he’s a “handful.” Remembering her calm, collected way with giant snakes, that’s saying a mouthful. ZZ is eight years old, but has been “messing with” alligators since he was four. His interests include non-stop fishing, riding around on an illegal motorbike, going barefoot in a backyard teeming with dangerous wildlife, handling snakes and alligators, and walking around with an enormous machete. And we city folk wonder why people who grow up on the bayou stay there - that would have been my dream childhood! Not my dream parenthood, but my own machete? Come on!
We’re ready to meet the polar opposites of Louisiana Cajuns. How about some California vegans? If you had a normal childhood, you might not know that “vegan” is pronounced “vee-gan.” It would have been more interesting had the family been from a star visible in the night sky, but it turns out vegans don’t eat animals or use animal products. That’s all. Have you ever wondered what there is to eat or wear if all animal products are successfully avoided? Wonder no more, as all your questions will be explored on this episode of Trading Spouses - even the ones you didn’t think of, like, do vegans drink coffee in the morning? Here’s a hint - anything that sounds appealing, tasty or fun is a big fat NO. But there’s always a soy alternative on hand.
The Gates are a family from San Diego, California, who have chosen to live an entirely vegan lifestyle since the birth of their youngest child. Barbara leads the family in their chosen life. She’s an animal rights activist who is deeply concerned with the plight of those unfortunate creatures who inhabit the planet with us without benefit of opposable thumbs or vocal chords. Vegans, she tells us, do not use any animal products. They do not eat meat, nor do they eat anything that was ever in the vicininty of an animal such as cheese, eggs, or milk. If an animal is involved, they want nothing to do with it. Why disturb a cow by milking it when soy cheese is available? As we watch, Barbara prepares French toast without using eggs or milk. I have to give her credit, because I wouldn’t think that was possible, and yet, the final product looks pretty much like the real thing. Not that they slather it with Mrs. Butterworth's syrup or anything. You wouldn’t want to muck up all that healthy soy/wheat germ/yeast product with processed sugar.
Barbara has two children: Jack, 10, and Lucy, 8. Being vegan doesn’t seem to bother them at all, which tells me they either don’t attend public school or they are completely brainwashed because most children will cop to sneaking a Cheetoh from their friends on the sly. Either way, we can quickly see that being vegan doesn’t bother them as much as being micromanaged by their mother. Barbara hovers over them in all aspects of their lives. Jack can’t so much as cut an apple without Barbara criticizing his approach and demanding obedience. In a maneuver I haven’t seen used out of toddlerhood, Barbara half-hugs/half-walks Lucy around to her room to show the girl a mess Barbara finds “unacceptable.” Maybe she tells herself that it’s a loving hug - a hug that just happens to control their movements and force them where she wants them to go.
I am sympathetic to a mom disciplining her kids, but only up to a point; and Barbara is about a mile across that line when she “helps” Lucy with her homework by yelling at her about how to complete a math problem and showing impatient disgust when Lucy struggles with it. We’re getting a picture of a perfectionist mom who doesn’t abide any dissention in the ranks. The question is: will she be able to get any obedience out of that rambunctious ZZ, or will she give up and jump in the swamp to be with her alligator brethren?
And how could we forget about Daddy Gates? Quite easily, it turns out. We get an accurate first impression of Jim Gates when his wife yells orders out to the yard where he is skulking, petting the family cats. She tells him to walk the kids to school, and doesn’t leave until he says the words, “I promise.” A simple yes from the adult you’ve chosen as your life partner isn’t good enough for a wife like Barbara, who treats her husband like just another kid. She explains that they’ve been married for twelve years, but she always adds seven years on top of that because “that’s how long it took Jim to marry [her]”. Jim tells the camera that she wore him down, and one day he found himself married and having babies. As for the veganism? That was Barbara’s idea. Jim admits that he didn’t want to do it, but was “outvoted.” Do the family pets get an equal say in all marital decisions? It’s hard to muster up an ounce of sympathy for Mr. Sad Sack cruising through life as Mr. Laid Back.
Barbara is proud of her family’s lifestyle, and goes so far as to call them courageous. As we’re shown scenes of the children screwing up their faces to drink the family’s daily “green juice” (think noxious-looking primordial ooze in a glass), I find that I agree. It takes courage to slurp dark green sludge while a million years of instinct are screaming, “Bad! Don’t drink! Unclean!“ Jack and Lucy manage it, though, and the vile brew leaves the world’s scariest drink mustache on their innocent little faces. But they can take comfort in the knowledge that not so much as a flea was harmed in its preparation. We see Barbara offering the leftovers to the family dog, who takes a pass.
Before the Swap
Diana has never left her husband or child, and she’s a little worried about ZZ. But she would like to see the rambunctious little ingrate appreciate her after she’s gone. She tells him that he’ll be crying for her before she returns, and ZZ scoffs. He wishes the trade was for two months, not a week. Oh, he will cry, my friends. Thanks to this choice bit of editing, I am sure of that.
If you’re a Trading Spouses veteran, you know that the show inexplicably requires them to leave their families at some ungodly hour of the night. On the West coast, Barbara leaves without a family member cracking open an eye, much less rousing themselves enough to say goodbye. Barbara shares with us her hopes for the week: that the experience will make her family appreciate her, and that her husband will be stuck with an ugly woman. I hate to take sides so early, but let me just say that I hope rival mom Diana has a long, scary bullwhip. And I hope she has it strapped to her belt, ready for use when the mothers meet in the next episode.
Meanwhile, Diana says her goodbyes to Diego, which he describes as “heartbreaking a little bit.” Diego takes comfort in the fact that his wife can handle herself pretty much in any situation. As the taxi drives off, we see Diego chase after it. A last minute kiss? Nah, he doesn’t know where Diana has left the keys. I am puzzled yet amused by Diego. It seems odd to watch this grown man in his clean black jeans, black t-shirt with an airbrushed design, and gold jewelry dashing around in his swamp surroundings. It’s obvious he cares about his clothes and his carefully-groomed blonde tresses, but his fashion choices are about as far from your garden variety metrosexual as you can get. I sense an inner dapper that is in direct conflict with his bayou lifestyle of fried foods and unshaven friends. Meanwhile, Diana tells us that Diego is kind to a fault, and if she’s not with him, other people will take advantage of him. Muscles, good hair, and a teddy bear soft center … I am intrigued by this kindly alligator dude with the Spanish name. Diego: a riddle wrapped in a mystery buried in an enigma.
Back in San Diego, Jim is ruminating on the fear of the unknown. He’s fearful that he will be forced to live with someone who questions The Vegan Lifestyle. Perhaps they should have checked the “Vegans Only” box on their application if they were so picky, but the soothing balm of $50,000 will float his fears away. Right? I thought so.
The wives arrive in their respective airports. Diana is surprised when Jim doesn’t offer to carry her luggage, like any man raised with Southern hospitality would (ouch). But it turns out not to be a question of etiquette, but a lack of physical strength in Jim’s beanpole frame. Giving up meat has left Jim without much, well, meat on his bones. Diana easily hoists her suitcase into the van in a maneuver that Jim laughs would land him in traction.
Cut to the New Orleans airport, where Diego is manfully carrying double suitcases of mammoth proportions. His shirt is unbuttoned to mid-chest, and his blond hair ripples off his muscular shoulders. Barbara’s not as taken with our fair Diego as I am, calling him a cross between “a heavy metal rock star and that guy with the long hair - Fabio.” Hey! That was my description, except she makes it sound like a bad thing.
While Barbara is being charmed by the plucky stranger who can lift her luggage with ease yet speaks with a rolling Cajun accent, Diana is finding her culture being rebuffed by Jim, who cuts her description of all the Cajun food they cook short with the warning that they are a vee-gan family. To a woman with a freezer full of meat, the prospect of going without meat and dairy products for a week is not a happy one. Diana thinks she will starve if she has to eat nothing but vegetables. It’s probably an exaggeration, but the previews did mention “our first Trading Spouses fatality.”
But Diana is not the only one feeling culture shock. Barbara is still trying to get a grasp on the entity known as Diego. Does he wear a lot of gold jewelry because all the men here do, or is that his personal style? Diego doesn‘t answer - maybe he doesn‘t understand the question. Next, she wonders if he listens to “rap music.” He doesn’t, but asks if Barbara does. She seems offended by the counter question. Will these two ever find common ground?
Diana reaches the house, and seems entranced by the Gates’ home. The grounds are landscaped and lovely, and their house is perched on a hill. To her waterlogged eyes, the drought-friendly garden of rocks and cactus look exotic and beautiful. Diana tells the kids that they have a great place to live, making the kids chuckle by throwing “y’alls” in the mix.
In Louisiana, Barbara’s reaction to her new home is not quite so positive, although she is relieved she won’t be living in a shack. I’m starting to wish the family would lead her to the alligator killing shed and tell her it’s the guest bedroom, but then, I lack Southern hospitality. Zamariah, though, has it in spades, and greets Barbara with a handshake welcome. Barbara is happy with where she has landed, until she sees the inside of the house. What follows is Barbara's rambling attempt to describe the house: she stumbles over words, mutters incoherently, and even hums a few bars of an old Ella Fitzgerald song before coming up with a one-word description of Casa Loupe: baffling. The house is large and spacious, and filled with lovely things. And yet, it’s so chock full of pretty knick-knacks that the overall effect is gaudy. Each room has elaborate window treatments or wood paneling; there’s not a bare white wall to be seen. Patterned curtains compete with even more wildly patterned chairs and rugs in the living room. Piece by piece, the house is beautiful; taken together, it’s mind-boggling. Barbara says it’s less a home than a museum. Maybe if it were a museum of kitsch? I can’t picture any of the Precious Moments statues in the Louvre, myself.
Zamariah’s not too keen on his new mom, and pledges to deal with his hair, his homework, and forget that she’s there. He also plans to fish every night until midnight. Since he mentioned his hair, let’s just call it shelf-step haircut with a generous blond tail left in the back. Quite the little Cajun-in-training is our little ZZ, but not if Barbara can help it.
Jaws Wide Open
Diana sits the kids down with their father to share a piece of her culture with the Gates family. Out of her bag of tricks she pulls a taste of home - dried alligator heads. Jack, the oldest child, says he didn’t want to accept the gift but hey, she was giving it to him for free … so he did. Lucy gets an “itty bitty” head, and although she knows it was “mean” to the alligators, she says likes it. Jim gets his gift last - a sizeable alligator head frozen permanently in a ferocious snarl that displays its many, but MANY, sharp teeth. Jim isn’t happy, but can only comment that it’s no wonder he couldn’t lift her bag. I think he’s glad he didn’t aid or abet the transportation of dried alligator heads, or Barbara would have made him pay for his accidental transgression.
Meanwhile, Barbara finds out while touring the Loupe family back yard that her new gentle friend Diego is a serial killer who proudly displays the skulls of his victims on his back fence. For a woman pledged to live a cruelty-free lifestyle, it’s a shock of epic proportions. She’s appalled by all aspects of the alligator carnage; the thought of it, the smell of the heads, and the realization that Diego is a “crocodile” killer. Well, I wouldn’t go so far as to give him credit for killing a creature not found in Louisiana, but we’ll let you slip this one time, Barbara.
Vegan on a Rampage
Barbara awakes to find herself still in the midst of the Alligator Holocaust, and is determined to inject some healthy veganism into these heathen’s lives. She makes a fruit smoothie, but has to wake a reluctant ZZ up to try it. Diego is out working on a Harley-Davidson in the driveway, and Barbara delivers him a smoothie along with a lecture about eating fruit twenty minutes before ingesting any other food. She marches off, pleased with her success, while Diego puts the cup on the ground quietly and rolls the motorcycle away to somewhere more peaceful.
Later, Barbara is taken on her own personal swamp tour, narrated and piloted by Diego. His commentary is interesting, especially when he describes how to trap a ‘gator, which involves baiting them to the surface with a hanging hook, then bashing them between the eyes when their head is above water. For Barbara, the educational tour is a litany of animal hatred. She faces away from Diego piloting the craft so that he can’t see the horror and disgust on her face. She hasn’t yet told them about her courageous lifestyle choice. Luckily, Diego gives a portion of the tour entirely in patois, so for a while, Barbara can relax without having to relive another animal killing.
After all the talk of alligator battles, Diego takes Barbara and ZZ to a local restaurant, telling us that he thinks she will be excited about the chance to get some real Cajun food. *sigh* I wouldn’t turn down your offerings of fried oysters and crawfish stew, Diego. Barbara, though, has not shared her dietary requirements with the new family, and reads the menu out loud with disgust in her voice. She tells us that it’s “glaringly obvious” that Californians are healthier, since Cajuns eat “everything that creeps or crawls in the bayou.” *sigh* And some Californians are nice enough to appreciate it when someone opens their home to us, but we don’t make good TV. As for Barbara, she’s happy pointing out that as a vee-gan, she doesn’t eat animals because she “doesn’t have to.” Given a choice, she will always choose compassion over killing for food. ZZ laughs at loud at this, his mouth stuffed with a scrumptious fried oyster. I’d like to think I have compassion, but I have to admit, I don’t have much to spare for the lowly oyster. Especially when he’s all battered up and fresh from the fryer. *drooling*
The waitress offers to refill Diego’s soda glass, but Barbara stops her, telling Diego he’s had enough soda for one day. He agreeably switches to water, and says nothing about her glass of wine. ZZ, however, is not pleased to hear restrictions on the soda. Barbara shows motivational talent by telling ZZ he will be dead by the time he’s forty if he continues to drink soda. He replies in an uppity tone that the good Lord will take him when it’s his time, making Diego crack up.
But Barbara has her revenge. When ZZ is promised a soda refill by the waitress, Barbara, under the guise of going to the salad bar, tracks down the waitress carrying the refill and makes her take it back to the kitchen. She gloats as she fills up her salad plate, while Diego reassures his disappointed son they are going to make it through the week.
Breakfast of Champions
Diana starts the day by offering to cook breakfast for the kids. She tells them they can eat something that’s normally against the rules, like carrot cake, or pie. The kids huddle close to their father and look uncertain, but Diana seems taken with her own idea. Pie for breakfast, she announces. Jim thinks that Diana just doesn’t get what it’s like to be a vee-gan. For one thing, the joy of food has been leeched out along with the butter and processed sugar. There’s no point in pretending suspense: there’s no earthly way the Gates children will be eating pie for breakfast anytime soon.
Magically, the day is over. Wow, we went from breakfast pie to total darkness in a snap. Now we’ve reached the part of the show where the women are told that they will spend the other family’s money. As it happens every week, neither is happy with the twist. Neither wants the other spending their money, nor wants to decide how to spend someone else’s money. They both look flabbergasted, then perturbed for the camera. Good job, gals.
It’s a new day, and Barbara does what she does best - orders around someone smaller than her. She tells ZZ that he will have to go a whole day without soda. It would be more admirable if she could get her way through a sentence without snapping, “pay attention” “listen up” and “are you listening?” anytime ZZ does not favor her with an unwavering stare. ZZ thinks for a moment, then counters with, “What’s in it for me?” Barbara chuckles evilly. It will be a challenge to subdue a young one with such spirit - a challenge she is ready for. “Your bones won’t get brittle,” she answers him. ZZ seems defeated … or is he? As she is telling him where to start a recycling bin, she steps outside, still barking orders. ZZ quietly sneaks the door closed behind her so that she is lecturing to herself.
It’s time for a party, Diego-style. Although other Trading Spouses mothers with less particular dietary requirements have made food for their weekly party themselves, Barbara seems to have let everyone fry to their hearts’ content while she sits back and looks distressed. The spread is impressive: fried seafood, dirty rice, beans, sausage, but there’s not a vegetable in sight. Barbara feels the holy spirit of dietary divinity fill her and urge her to speak out against the culinary madness of Cajun food.
She tells a group of guests that eating healthy is “her thing,” and explains the definition of veganism to a pair of older ladies. While she is patting herself on the back for following a healthy lifestyle, they were probably wondering why she couldn’t be bothered to put on something nice or wear makeup for a social gathering. We see Barbara giving the lecture to several groups of unfortunate guests during the night. Most have a blank, I’m-being-polite expression, but a couple of the men look downright hostile. These are people that make their living by co-existing with alligators; can she really expect them to call a truce for the sake of a creature that is in every backyard and would rip their throats out if given the chance?
As Barbara is explaining that it takes 2,500 gallons of water to produce one hamburger, she finally meets someone willing to question her statistics. “Wild Bill” Tregle, an aptly named relative of Diana’s, interrupts Barbara to say that someone has been telling her “bull stories.” He counters her pleas to give up meat with the thought that she’d have to kill all kinds of trees in order to clear enough land to make a garden. Great, now Barbara’s ethically suspect. When will the carnage stop?
Barbara continues her lecture on healthy eating, proudly pointing to her success in getting ZZ to give up his sodas for the duration of her stay. As she is speaking, the camera spots ZZ in the next room, sneaking a soda while the adults around him could care less. Well, we could see that coming from a mile off, couldn‘t we? Later, Barbara asks ZZ to look her in the eye and answer truthfully whether he drank any soda. He says no, and she pats herself on the back, once again.
The Unearthly Vegan Glow
Diana heads out to a vegan potluck, which she describes as something that Barbara does regularly at home. It’s a little different from the usual Trading Spouses party in that she doesn’t have any of the Gates family around her for moral support. But you know our Diana by now. Walking into a roomful of strange women devoted to a cultish-like diet? While lugging a bag of alligator heads? No problem.
Diana meets a large crop of Barbara’s friends, and is impressed by their glowing good looks and generally healthy appearance. She finds it odd to see “all these skinny women” who don’t eat any meat. She compliments them on their health and looks, and the women are instantly charmed. The good feeling in the room lasts until Diana brings out her patented Gifts O’Death(TM) - some voodoo dolls, a few airbrushed t-shirts, and the ubiquitous alligator heads. Smiles freeze; a dozen vegan heads swivel around to look at each other in silent communication. Does she get the lecture, or the boot? Matronly vegan #12 takes on the task.
The matron/vegan “explains” to Diana that every woman in the room is pledged to educate others about living a “cruelty-free lifestyle.” They do not wear fur or leather; they protest the circus; they catch and release bugs instead of stomping on them. Diana explains her point of view - that in Louisiana, the alligator population is out of control, and there is a controlled harvest every year. By salvaging the heads, Diana explains, she is recycling the parts of an animal that would be killed anyway. Barbara’s friends are not impressed with her explanation, telling her that they want to see the alligators taken care of, not killed. Diana is frustrated that they don’t seem to understand that taking care of the alligators is not an option. Alligators are dangerous, and Louisianans take steps to curb their population - that’s just the way things are, she says. Why not take them on a swamp tour to meet the objects of their compassion, Diana? See how much alligator love is there when they’re up close and personal, and you’re the one piloting the boat, holding a long stick to poised to nudge them over the side.
By the end of the party, the women have refused their gifts. That darn bag isn’t getting any lighter.
Barbara versus the Swamp Brat
Diego takes Barbara and ZZ to New Orleans for a day of visiting the French Quarter, the Riverwalk and all the lovely little stores and eateries in between. (No word on used book stores, my favorite FQ diversion.) Anyhoo, the three stroll into the French Market, which is an open-air market selling groceries, souvenirs and knick-knacks. ZZ points out some grapes to Barbara, who sourly tells him not to take any. ZZ had already taken his hand away, but at the automatic nag from Barbara, he whips his hand out and snags a grape, popping it in his mouth before she can grab his wrist. The rest of the day seems to follow this lead: ZZ touches, fingers, and pokes the merchandise while Barbara fusses, fumes and lectures non-stop. Diego doesn’t interfere, but looks disturbed at the escalating fight.
There’s no question that ZZ can be a little snot, and he’s certainly not on his best behavior with Barbara. But if I were the parent adjusting to Barbara (meaning Diego), I would have stopped her before she grabbed him by the wrists and demanded respect from his sassy eight-year-old self. When ZZ interrupts her, Barbara turns on him and tells him he’s rude, and that she was talking (all the while holding his wrists). ZZ says, “Excuse me,” in an apologetic voice. “That’s your last warning!” she barks in reply. At one point, ZZ finds the side of a grassy levee and rolls down - something I remember as a fun, harmless childhood activity. Barbara is livid, screaming threats of “consequences” after his rolling form. Finally, she tells him if he “makes one more move on the grass” they will skip going to the toy store. ZZ finally stops rolling at this ultimatum.
Not content to control the boy’s movements even when he is surrounded by an expanse of grass and couldn’t possibly hurt anyone or anything but a few blades, Barbara continues to hover. At one point, ZZ is cavorting ahead of them on a boardwalk and stumbles in front of a middle-aged couple. The man nearly steps on him, then bends to help him up with an “Excuse me.” ZZ tells him it’s okay, and the couple continues on in the opposite direction. Barbara pounces on ZZ and tells him that he needs to say “excuse me” to them. He does, but the couple have walked away and Barbara cannot be certain they have heard, so she walks/hugs/shoves ZZ after them until the man walking away waves his hand in the air dismissively. So far ZZ has done what she has asked of him; will he escape a lecture?
Of course not. Barbara stops ZZ right where he stumbled and tells him that when she was his age, she ran around out of control and knocked her grandmother down, breaking her hip. “Yes’m,” ZZ replies.
The family takes a break for cafe au lait and beignets at the world-famous Café du Monde. Well, maybe Barbara has water because she’s a wet blanket, but at least ZZ gets a crack at hot doughnuts rolled in powdered sugar. Barbara tells us that she senses some “tension” from ZZ, and asks him if he’s mad about something. ZZ takes a chance and opens up. He tells her that his mom doesn’t pull him around or make him chase down people if he did something wrong. Barbara’s had enough of acknowledging ZZ’s feelings, and launches into a lecture about ZZ being wrong and herself being right. Not surprisingly, ZZ shuts down again. Diego tells us that he believes Barbara is overstepping herself, but doesn’t interfere. Meanwhile, Barbara wants to know if ZZ thinks he learned a lesson today, and ZZ replies matter-of-factly, “Nope.” Barbara rage flashes back. “That’s the kind of mouthy behavior that’s going to get soap in your mouth,” she tells the eight-year-old.
No Meat is Murder
Diana is not looking forward to dinner. Although we haven’t been shown it, mealtimes at the Gates house consist of salad, three times a day. Jim calls over to Diana, wanting to know if she’s going to have a salad for dinner. “I wasn’t going to, er, that is, I thought, um, well, maybe just a small salad?” Diana confesses to us that she can’t work up the courage to tell Jim that she hates salad. She doesn’t want to offend Jim, though, so she plays along, but the minute Jim leaves the room she quizzes the kids: what does Jim do with the mushrooms? Does he cook them in anything, or do they just eat them plain? Meanwhile, Jim is so unaware of Diana’s feelings that he thinks she can’t cook, since anyone can put together a salad. It’s a vicious circle of salad, salad, SALAD! Meanwhile, we learn in there somewhere that these incessant salads are eaten without benefit of any dressing. For the love of crimony, people, a little olive oil and vinegar will make those veggies sing in your mouth, and it doesn’t hurt any animal on the planet. Are we supposed to feel compassion for a crushed olive?
It turns out that we didn’t have our Trading Spouses party for Diana. The potluck was just lagniappe; the real party will happen at the Gates house. Diana immediately sees the situation from the perspective of a carnivore: parties mean food, and all good food includes meat. Jim declares grimly that there’s no chance in Hell that he will eat a bite of real gumbo. If it’s not vee-gan, it’s crap, folks.
Prelude to a Showdown
Back on the bayou, Barbara is ready to really get into ZZ’s discipline. This time, she doesn’t pull any punches. Diana and Diego have made a lot of mistakes, she tells us, and if she had been ZZ’s parent, she would have been a much better parent than them. And ZZ would have been a joyless waif unable to lift a machete, much less have one of his own. But what’s the point of these what ifs? That’s Barbara’s thing, not mine.
ZZ is candidly angry in his camera confessionals. He misses his mom, and wants to punch Barbara’s lights out. He demonstrates, punching his hand a few times to get the point across. Right between the eyes, like you would with an unruly alligator.
Sitting on the family dock over the bayou, Barbara attempts to have a discipline talk with ZZ, who listens, doesn’t say much, and spits a lot. Barbara continues to press him for a response, but his eyes are focused on something in the water. Barbara begins to pull out the ultimatums. I don’t even know what she’s asking of him by this point, but whatever it is (total obedience? silent servitude?) she will take away fishing if he doesn’t toe the line. That strikes a nerve. Instead of backing down, now ZZ is now actively shooting Barbara a look of defiance, which she hates. She tells him not to push her, since she could keep him locked up in his room. He replies that he would play with his toys. She says she would make sure he couldn’t play with them. He says he would take two sticks and rub them together until they made fire. He fixes her with a determined glare, while we hear ZZ saying in a voiceover, “Gators don’t sweat.”
Barbara tries to take a new tack, telling ZZ that she has to “exhibit a lot of patience” with him. ZZ gives her a lecture of his own. He understands that she’s excited about being a new mom, and that she has to “burst out” all at once. Barbara says she doesn’t follow. ZZ tries again, telling her that he isn’t trying to be rude to her, but that he is sometimes thoughtless. She is confusing his thoughtlessness with rudeness. Barbara can’t follow the logic, and tells ZZ not to be thoughtless. Sure Barbara, and I’ll stop letting gravity keep me down. The stage is set for a major showdown, with ZZ leaving us with his final thought (again): “Gators don’t sweat.” But they do roll around in mud and filth, ZZ, so be prepared.
Diana shocks a bespectacled middle-aged man by saying that she kills poisonous spiders. Barbara brings a list of complaints? suggestions? to her meeting with Diana. Both families get stung by the poisonous money divvying of the other.
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