Welcome to part two of Trading Spouses Doesn’t Mean We Have to Wear Shoes. Or Use Furniture. Or Listen to Bluegrass Outside of The Grand Ole’ Opry. Let’s dive right in, shall we?
It’s a new day, and Vickie sticks to her plan formulated the night before: to get those Abbott children shod. And make sure their locks are shorn. Not really, but for some reason I feel the need to pepper the recap with “sh” words. Shiznit!
Kyle, Luke and Vickie stroll to Santa Cruz’s downtown shopping district, where they stop at “Old School Shoes,” which is chock-full of hip-looking sneakers, despite the store’s name. Or maybe I just have old-fashioned taste in shoes. Luke and Kyle seem to be enjoying themselves in their quiet way, humoring Vickie when she prods them to try on what they like. Kyle even ventures in an exuberant moment that he’d like a “brownish” pair. Exuberance for Kyle means a few seconds of eye contact before turning back to studying his toes.
But it turns out the shoes are only secondary items of interest. Vickie takes one look at cute, college-age salesgirl and sees the opportunity to broaden the boys’ horizons in other ways than learning to wear socks. She asks the salesgirl if her “young men” are “sexy”, and the poor girl agrees politely. Vickie sees her chance to play matchmaker, pushing Luke to ask her name, her age, her phone number, while he looks increasingly embarassed (the girl is four years older than him, if nothing else). The girl breaks up the awkward moment by saying it’s making her blush. Luke speeds through the sale and takes off before Vickie can push for a more successful matchmaking moment.
Fishing For Friendship
Vickie tells us that she’s had no “quality time” with Kyle, so she accompanies him to the pier to share in his favorite hobby, fishing. However, the outing is doomed from the get-go because while Kyle thinks Vickie genuinely wants to learn to fish, Vickie is only interested in getting Kyle to open up with her. While Kyle struggles to teach her how to cast and actually, you know, catch a fish, Vickie fumbles and doesn’t pay attention to his instructions. Each time she attempts to cast, we can see Kyle ducking while the soundtrack gives us a Vickie bleep! Kyle isn’t bowled over by Vickie’s personal style; in fact, in his best Niles Crane manner, he tells us that “Vickie has her own way of using words that are coarse as ground nuts. I don’t really like that.” He even goes as far as to shush Vickie when he’s trying to concentrate on getting his hook out of a throwaway fish’s mouth. Sure Vickie wouldn’t stop with the annoying questions, but Kyle comes off looking like an old crank in a fourteen-year-old’s body.
On the walk home, Vickie tries again to get Kyle to talk about himself, but her leading questions (“what has me being here with you guys taught you?”) are met with grunts. Which I have to say, is pretty much like every fourteen-year-old boy I’ve ever known.
Vickie launches into Plan B: Operation Get Luke Driving. Luke, who is eighteen years old, doesn’t have his driver’s license. Still, he must have practiced before, because he successfully drives Vickie to a large parking lot to practice three-point turns and parallel parking. Not much of a challenge, if you ask me. Make him dodge the taxis and merging lanes of a busy airport - that’s what I call a driving lesson. (Thanks, Dad.)
Now here’s where the show starts to take a turn away from the ridiculous to the serious. Vickie questions Luke about his goals and dreams, and he has nothing to say. She asks him more specific questions, wondering where he wants to go to college. His answer is that he’s “not convinced that college is a sure-fire way” to succeed in life. Hold the phone - now the Abbott family has evolved beyond the need for higher education?
But I’m flummoxed again when Vickie asks him if he wants to travel the world, or experience other cultures, or get out anywhere and meet any other people. Here’s what floored me: Luke responds that his father did that already, and that he (his father) wasn’t happy. Luke figures that since his father was looking for validation by wandering the globe, and he (Luke) already has what his father was looking for, why go anywhere? This Luke's not bursting to get off Tatooine any time soon.
Why, indeed? Vickie advises him to reconsider - that young minds need education, and independence is a must. She finds it disheartening that he’s not even thinking of ever leaving his Papa’s home. She tells him to “be the man YOU want to be.”
Luke comes away from the conversation admitting that he wishes for a little excitement sometimes. Vickie has had some success with Luke, as ideas are clearly percolating in this young man’s head.
The Healing Power of Cake
We haven’t forgotten about the Lowe family, who are hosting Leslie Abbott for the week. Ricky Sr. has been reflecting on his kids having a laughing fit while Leslie was playing her music. He thinks back to Leslie telling him that she takes her music seriously, and wonders if she was trying to share something of herself with the family. He calls Ricky and Hope out the porch to remind them not to laugh uproariously when their guest suggests a sing-a-long.
He tells them that all the mocking laughter was out of line, and that Leslie was hurt by their attitude. Hope seems genuinely surprised to find out that Leslie has feelings. When she thinks about it, though, she admits that she’s used to her mother’s loud and crazy ways. Her own mother would have let her know if her feelings were hurt; and there’s no question that Leslie is, um, different than her mother. You know, with her lack of wedgies at family gatherings and all.
But the uncomfortable moments of introspection are over. The Lowes decide that there’s only one way to get the laughter back on everybody’s faces - throw Leslie a par-tay!
The morning of Leslie’s birthday dawns, which she greets with her usual yoga routine - this time without any of the Lowes to slow her down. She tells us that in her family, birthdays are not a big deal. They’re just another day. *sniff* Aww, now don’t do that. Don’t go making me feel sorry for you, Ms. Yoga Mom.
But while Leslie goes through the motions of another day in Tennessee, the Lowe’s are secretly plotting a big birthday bash. Hope treats her to a day a local salon as her “birthday present,” gloating quietly all the while about the surprise waiting for Leslie when she gets home.
They return to find that son-of-a-gun, the house is packed with family members, and they are all singing happy birthday! Seriously, their spur-of-the-moment party attracted about fifty family members - how did they do that? Leslie is visibly touched at the attention, but when she sees the cake with a picture of her family on it, she loses all semblance of self-control, breaking down in uncontrolled sobs. For the first time, she looks happy to be there. Hope, though, is a little taken aback by Leslie’s sobbing. Leslie did a good job of hiding her feelings for those few days, and Hope is still surprised that something like a cake or a party could get such an emotional reaction out of Leslie.
”Pickin' Friends” - Is That Sanitary?
Vickie may have gotten her way with the shoes, but the bluegrass pickin' jam is on, despite her protests on the last episode. A friendly horde of bluegrass pickers pour into the Abbott household. Too bad there’s only a few folding chairs to make them feel welcome.
Vickie gives them thirty minutes (and we see both Luke and Kyle playing with considerable expertise) to get the bluegrass out of their system. Then she strikes, calling a halt to the live music and turning on a boombox. Strains of Aretha Franklin screaming for respect fill the room, and before you can sing, “just a little bit”, all the bluegrass musicians are dancing. They showed Luke and Kyle looking perplexed at the sound, but I’d bet real money that shot was edited in. Who could hear that song without at least tapping their toes?
When we next see Vickie, she’s sitting next to one of the guests and singing the blues. The party laughs as she ad-libs a song about being in Santa Cruz, singing the blues. It rhymes, you see. Kyle and Luke are there, joining in on the blues jam, laughing it up with the rest of the guests. Unlike their dire predictions of last episode, none of the bluegrass musicians seem put out to be playing out of their genre. Luke ponders the experience, deciding that he was “pleasantly surprised that [he] got such a big kick out of trying these new things.” That was positively gushing for Luke. Heck, he used an adjective and an adverb in the same sentence!
What’s This? Actual Quality Time?
Vickie has decided that she needs to communicate her concerns about the Abbott’s way of life to Carl. She may look like a woman only interested in laughing it up while she’s giving her kids wedgies, but Vickie’s got a streak of save the children! in her makeup. From the previews, we know she’s going to make Carl cry. He won’t be the first Trading Spouses dad caught on camera sharing painful emotions. I suspect he won’t be the last, either.
The conversation starts out with Vickie confronting Carl about sheltering his sons. Luke and Kyle are behind Carl, mostly listening in and trading shocked looks with each other, but answering Vickie when she asks what they do when their mom leaves the house. “She doesn’t,” they reply. What, no one goes to the grocery store in that family? As for Carl, he listens to her arguments, but dismisses her points with the excuse that he and his family are “not normal.” Vickie poo poos him. Actually, she bleep bleeps his answer. “You eat and sleep and breathe and bleep just like anybody else, and you’re going to tell me you’re not normal?”
Carl retrieves a small globe to illustrate his whatever point he’s making about normalcy. Behind him, Luke and Kyle settle in, as if they’ve heard this story many times. Tracing a finger, he plots a line through the jungles of Borneo through the Sahara (well, we don’t see it, but that’s how he described it). The entire journey he went barefoot, he tells her. No wonder she’s rolling her eyes.
But he is trying to explain that he spent some twenty years on this barefoot quest, all the while keeping the company of thieves, killers and bandits. And pirates, right? He didn’t mention them, but there must have been pirates! He is wrapping up his story, reflecting on his “deep, deep” journey, when we hear Vickie’s take on the tale: “You full of bleep!” *double take* Woah, where did that come from?
Vickie takes Carl to task for trying to complicate a simple discussion. The subject? Letting the boys out of the house by themselves for a change. Carl’s answer? More than she needed to know. He says he can’t let the boys out by themselves because it would compromise his integrity. He tells her she doesn’t understand what he means by “integrity”, and Vickie gives her definition: “who I am and what I believe in.” Well, that...works. Doesn’t it?
Not to Carl. He dismisses her, saying he can’t explain his notion of integrity. You can already see Carl furrowing his eyebrows and smiling over Vickie’s lack of understanding. I get the feeling that people don’t “get” Carl on a regular basis, don’t you? But here’s where the conversation takes a turn from amusing mis-communication to deadly serious. “Clarify it for me,” pipes up Luke. Carl turns to Luke standing behind him with a look of genuine surprise. Luke? Questioning his Papa?
Carl can feel the conversation moving where he doesn’t want to go, and responds to Luke with a child-don’t-bother-me tone of voice. He tells Luke that he’s not old enough to be out by himself yet. “He’s eighteen!” squeaks Vickie. Carl says that whether Luke is 18, 38, 48 or 78, he’ll never be old enough to leave him.
While the room is still reeling from this pronouncement, Carl says he wants to stop talking about it. But Vickie can sense she’s near a deeper truth. What happened to him, she wonders, that made him so overprotective and sheltering of his children?
Carl seems stricken by the question, then spins the globe again, telling us that while he was in Thailand, his brother died in California. He’s overcome with emotion, and can’t continue. Kyle walks away, but the older Luke watches as his father emotes about how blessed he is to have Leslie, who accepts him, and has carved out an insular, protected life with him. Vickie concludes that this man is tormented by his past, and is letting fear rule his existence.
Whew! We’re done with the heavy stuff. *wiping sweat off brow*
The two moms bid their families goodbye without rancor, both having enjoyed the experience. Ricky says that he hopes Leslie learned what it was like to live with a relaxed family that just lives to have fun. Vickie leaves her family with compliments for Luke (“you’re brilliant”) and Kyle (“you got it going on”), and Carl describes the experience as an “intense journey.” Luke, especially, seems to have enjoyed the week, calling it the most memorable experience of his life. Hugs abound.
Vickie the Lighthouse
The truth is the light, Vickie tells us, and she’s feeling nigh unto a lighthouse. Do lighthouses launch into lectures about how to fix your family before even sitting down for a nice exchange of chit chat about the weather? Apparently, they do.
Leslie isn’t too thrilled to hear Vickie greet her with platitudes about letting her children flap their wings or somesuch. From such a winning start, Vickie continues to endear by asking Leslie questions like “Papa run every damn thing at home, don’t he?” What Leslie doesn’t realize is that it’s rare for Vickie to have gone ten minutes without a bleep-worthy moment. This is a toned-down Vickie compared to what the Abbott children lived with. Leslie tries to disagree politely, not liking the “spin” she’s hearing that “Papa” is a control freak, but she’s too late - Vickie’s not interested in changing her opinion at this point.
Leslie tells Vickie that she had a hard time connecting with Hope, but relates the story of the birthday party, and how fun it was. Vickie is quick to point out that they had fun at the California party, and that the Abbott boys had a great time because it was spontaneous and unrehearsed. Leslie’s smile is looking forced, like she’s muttering again with the criticisms of my family life? under her breath. But the meeting breaks up with the women on friendly terms. They are ready for their homecoming.
Fifty Thousand Reasons to Go Barefoot For a Week
Vickie returns home (barefoot!) to a house gone wild with joy. “My ass is bluegrassed out,” she tells them, and they cavort around with glee. She explains the twist, and like all Trading Spouses families before them, everyone reacts with horror. What did that crazy yoga-loving bluegrass-playin’ mama do with their money?
- $12,500 to Ricky Sr.
- $12,500 to Vickie.
- $12,500 to Ricky Jr., but $8,000 of this amount to be set aside for education (causing a groan from Ricky).
- $12,500 to Hope (shouldn’t her name be Hicky?), but $8,000 of this amount to be set aside for education (causing a groan from Hope).
Leslie added that she found Ricky and Hope to be warm, kind and appreciative children. Ricky Sr. was thrilled with the assessment of his family, saying that her words made him proud to be a parent.
Back in Santa Cruz, Leslie returns to find her men upstairs, playing their instruments - in fact, they’re singing a song about missing their woman. After the reunion, Leslie sits them down and delivers the news that Vickie will decide how their money is spent. Carl automatically vetos the idea, but Leslie tells him firmly that she’s not suggesting it, it’s the rules. You can start to see a bit more of the family dynamic; that Leslie is no pushover.
Vickie left the money to be spent as follows:
- $20,000 to be spent on upgrading on the Abbott’s rental properties.
- $4,000 to get Luke a nice used car (prompting a huge smile on Luke’s face)
- The rest to be spent on furnishing the house, which will include establishing private rooms for Luke and Kyle. (“No way that’s going to happen,” grumbles Carl.)
Kyle perks up at the thought of new furniture, which Carl seems to shoot down, rules be damned. Leslie interjects that she slept on a great mattress while she was in Tennessee, fixing Carl with a marital “look.” Maybe Vickie was just what this family needed to find their inner couch potato.
Luke says that Vickie was pushing them to change their lifestyle, which he admits is probably a good thing. Carl’s final words are given with tears in his eyes: that learning to drive, getting a car, going to college, spreading your wings - all of this will never lead to contentment.
The episode ends with Luke playing his guitar and reflecting on his future. He tells us that after this experience, he wants to get out and, well, go somewhere. He’s an awesome guitar player; maybe there’s a barefoot record producer out there watching the show, getting ready to dial him up as I write.
Woke up this morning with a freight train on my mind. firstname.lastname@example.org