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The Kids Are Alright - Wendi's House - Review - Waffles

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The kids are better than alright in another standout episode. The same cannot be said for the Cleary home, left to the mercies of the boys while Mike and Peggy were away at a mandatory marriage seminar. A whirlwind montage reveals the carnage and misdeeds. Timmy’s wild side is binge watching the old-fashioned way, and he admits he “overindulged.” Lawrence, who gets a big role in this episode (hip hip hooray!), admonishes his brothers for not making it to Sunday mass. Frank, of course, chimes in he went to the earlier one. The sudden realization the house is a place where people dump garbage leads to the discovery of a cockroach, finally captured by Joey after a fast series of near disasters. All this happens before Mike and Peggy walk in the front door.

The perfect pacing of the first few minutes doesn’t let up, as Mike and Peggy take stock of their offspring. I was particularly tickled to see Mary McCormack execute the baby check. For those unfamiliar, this involves extending the arms and holding the baby far enough away so you can see all angles. Rotate the baby to the left and the right, always upright, to cautiously inspect both sides. Tip the baby horizontally (with a supporting arm around his tummy) and sniff the booty to ascertain freshness or lack thereof. Happily, Baby Andy was clean as a daisy, thanks to William remembering to change his diaper right before the parents got home. Like a dutiful and seasoned older child, Lawrence came to ask his parents how their trip went. Mike and Peggy gleefully gave him the highlights in a quick, peppery exchange brimming with solid humor. Five kinds of syrup! Malibu! Wendi’s mom hitchhiking home after an awful blowout with Wendi’s dad!.....!.....Peggy looks up to see Eddie and Wendi standing in the doorway.

That eventually brings us to the titular “Wendi’s House.” (Insert appropriate creaking shutter sounds.) Eventually. There’s a matter of life and death that takes priority. Pat beseeches Joey to not kill the captured cockroach. And does Christopher Paul Richards nail that faux heavy-hearted “What choice to I have?” that Joey responds with or what! Mock hesitation aside, Joey is intrigued when he finds out there are cockroach races held at a local Irish bar. There’s just the small challenge of being admitted to the bar. Enter Lawrence. As an older sibling, I could immediately understand why Lawrence spilled his secret to Joey. He wanted to impress his younger brother, raise his cool creed. Of course, there’s letting the cat out of the bag and then there’s flaunting how you got the cat in the bag to begin with. Lawrence is overdue a closer look, and it turns out he’s a bit of a bad boy. (Joey’s not the only one!) He’s been wearing his priest collar to the Irish bar, because no one asks him for ID. (Lawrence is 20.)

We’ll get to “Wendi’s House” in just a moment. Lawrence finds Joey at the bar, comforting a man whose father has recently passed away and possibly reincarnated in bird form. He intends to take Joey home, but he quickly remembers that he handed Joey prime blackmail material on a big ole silver platter. To avoid being exposed to the waitress Fiona (guest star Galadriel Stineman) he’s sweet on, Lawrence doesn’t blow Joey’s cover. He does wonder if Joey is getting attached to his cockroach. Joey rolls his eyes, while the camera briefly slides over to where the cockroach is enjoying a very plump maraschino cherry in his jar. Joey looks at it with what might just be fond pride. Lawrence gets some advice from Joey, to just confess to Fiona that he likes her and wants to go out. Hilariously, Joey recommends keeping the lie intact by telling Lawrence to tell Fiona that his admiration for her is so strong he’s going to give up the priesthood. Lawrence takes the high road, and Fiona is chill about it. And Joey takes the high road too. He pulls his cockroach from the race when it appears to be injured and refuses to let it be fed to birds (the traditional fate of the losing cockroach).

Now, to “Wendi’s House!” How does Peggy end up invading Wendi’s space with a do-it-yourself casserole to get her through the door? And Frank hiding in the bushes out back?! It begins with Eddie ducking out one evening to attend his leather-crafting class, which comes as a surprise to Peggy. Who knew he was taking that class? Alarm bells and oven timers go off in Peggy’s brain when William informs her that Wendi’s mom moved away to college. Wendi. Is. Home. Alone. Well, Mike refuses to get involved, shuddering at the possible discoveries. Peggy’s Mama Bear energy conjures Frank who drives her over to catch the couple in their charade. Instead of “two redheads on a waterbed,” Peggy finds Wendi alone. It took me a while to pick up that Wendi was being way too chill about Peggy barging into her home. Wendi gets all vulnerable and tells Peggy she’s been keeping it a secret from Eddie that she’s home alone. She’s worried that he might, in so many words, take advantage of that. She phrases it in a very roundabout way, but it feels wiffly waffly all wrong. And there’s this wide-eyed softness that Kennedy Lea Slocum deploys in this scene. Wendi’s declaration appeases Peggy.

However, Mike actually listened at the marriage seminar. He thinks that Wendi keeping this from Eddie will be detrimental to their relationship. Peggy disagrees that a little secret at the start of a relationship could derail it. She is determined to make this about her and Mike, which is interesting, but Mike doesn’t lose focus. When Eddie conveniently shows up with Wendi, that exact same night, saying he picked her up after leather class and they want to show his parents the purse he made her (The Big “W” is for Wendi)……..Mike unleashes the relationship counseling “hokum” he picked up at the seminar. He makes Eddie and Wendi sit down and walks Wendi through confessing the truth. A round of applause for Slocum and Caleb Foote who play the scene so sincerely that I almost believed Eddie and Wendi were telling the truth but at the same time Foote and Slocum made sure we were still suspicious with some very telling glances and some overly formal dialogue. Mike congratulates himself for saving Eddie and Wendi’s relationship, even as both he and Peggy nearly gag at the idea of relationship counseling being effective.

I loved every one of the main stories in this episode. McCormack and Cudlitz’s banter throughout was a highlight. Joey and Lawrence’s unexpected collaboration was a delightful and needed window into these two. And Eddie and Wendi’s scheming, perfectly undone by a small overlooked detail, was a brilliant caper.

Other notes:

William has a paper route, which means he knows things about everyone.

Pat spent the episode “having a really fun adventure” by himself, in a bittersweet reminder the fading joys of imagination.

The plate-smashing/cockroach-pursuing sequence at the beginning was perfect.

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