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American Housewife - Graduation - Review: "Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes"

The Ottos are back for Season 5, and the first episode - which picks up soon after Season 4 unexpectedly ended - tackles graduation and the changes that come with the end of a new school year.

    Speaking of changes - the most obvious one is a new Anna-Kat. (In case you're late to the party, Julia Butters left at the end of Season 4, and the character has been recast with Giselle Eisenberg.) Katie dryly addresses this by commenting "Yeah. Kids change." And new Anna-Kat (Ok, I should probably just refer to her as Anna-Kat, but this is gonna take some getting used to!) is looking forward to attending Wildflower Girls sleep-away camp. Katie's thrilled that she's finally confident enough to do something away from the safety of home. Franklin, on the other hand, is convinced sleep-away camp is a one-way ticket to the grave. When Anna-Kat reveals she's had a change of heart due to Franklin's fears, neither Katie nor Greg are happy. They assure her they would never send her anywhere dangerous and tell her she should never base her decisions around what a boy says. Thankfully, Anna-Kat agrees.
     Meanwhile, Greg is trying to make a change of his own by finishing Lonnie's book and sending him on his way. Unfortunately, Lonnie has shot down five conclusions already and Greg's patience is wearing thin. So when Lonnie decides to spice the story up by unexpectedly shooting Greg with a "paintball bazooka," Greg reaches his wit's end, telling Lonnie to either pick an ending or find someone else. Lonnie says if Greg really won't stick around, he'll just find another "old dude" to help him end his book. ("There's a Tommy Bahama three blocks from here!") 

     Taylor finds out that her big change - graduation - may be in jeopardy. Katie told her she'd return a library book for her freshman year, and she never did, so Taylor's not on the graduation list. Katie goes in to try and smooth things over in the library, only to run into her nemesis Tara Summers volunteering at the library desk. Tara all-too-happily informs Katie that because the book is so incredibly overdue, she's not even allowed to just let Katie pay the fine. The only thing for Katie to do is sit down with Ablin and plead her case. 
     So Katie tracks down Ablin, who agrees to let Taylor graduate - on the condition that Katie plans his weird little wedding to Maria (which she'd previously declined to do.) Only, Ablin's got some extremely difficult circumstances to meet. They have to get married within the next two days, because the riverboat cruise they're spending the summer on leaves right after graduation, and they promised Ablin's mother they wouldn't go on the cruise "living in sin." Maria wants a big wedding, even though neither of them has big families and they only have one friend (who will be out of town!). Ablin wants to wear a kilt, even though he's not Scottish and Maria's demanding bagpipes and a professional videographer. And the budget for all the festivities? Exactly $291.55. 

     Yeah, Katie's got her work cut out for her. Thankfully, Angela and Doris are there to help and immediately suggest a way for the couple to have a big wedding with food and drinks, all without a dime - they get married in the middle of graduation! Katie loves the idea. Unfortunately, Tara Summers is also in charge of graduation, so getting the OK is going to be a problem.
    Doris is also on hand to hand over her old wedding dress for the bride to wear. It's custom made from Italy! And it has a "fairly substantial burn mark!" (Apparently Doris got a little "arseny" after the divorce.) Thankfully, Maria's crafty and is pretty sure she can work around it. 

     With the rest of the family dealing with their problems, Oliver thinks he and Cooper are set up to have the perfect next year as upperclassmen until Cooper declares his parents bought an estate in Palm Beach (There's no income tax in Florida!) and are selling their Westport place and forcing him to move to Florida. Suddenly Oliver's looking at life without his best friend. 

     While Taylor continues to wait for Katie to make sure she can graduate, she and Trip decide to take a popular online quiz that is supposed to determine whether high school sweethearts will stay together. They're not too concerned since neither are leaving town yet. Taylor's taking a gap year (News to me, but I guess the writers had to find some way to keep her around). And Trip's...well...Trip. And we all know college isn't happening on that end! So, Taylor's horrified when the result of the quiz declares them a "dumpster fire." (Trip's happy because dumpster fires provide the light for the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles!) They take the quiz again, to see if they get better results, and this time the quiz declares them a nuclear bomb! Taylor's devastated and Trip's unsure how to convince her the quiz means nothing, so he seeks out Katie's advice. She tells him to trick her into hearing him. ("Tricking is a major part of any long term relationship!") 

     Fortunately for Katie, her talk with Trip lines up a few solutions for her wedding planning woes as well. She needs someone ordained to perform the ceremony and Trip's ordained! (He did it online so he could perform a marriage ceremony for Anna-Kat's twin ponies Twinkle-Toes and Duffy McSprinkles.) And Trip knows a bagpipe player too - Franklin! Apparently "he joined a bagpiping group as a way to rehab his asthma and it turned into a passion." 

     On the morning of the graduation/wedding, Katie gets ready to pull off her ultimate trick when she runs into more problems. She's recruited Lonnie and his crew to video the wedding, but since he and Greg got into their fight and stopped speaking, Greg is unsure if he's gonna show. Anna-Kat also reveals that she doesn't know if Franklin and his bagpiping group are coming, as they haven't spoken since she told him she's still going to sleep-away camp. 

     At graduation, the group listens to the speeches, and Katie's thrilled to see Lonnie and his crew arrive. He admits the reason that he wouldn't pick an ending for the book is that he doesn't want his friendship with Greg and the Otto family to end. Greg assures him that that won't happen. After all, there'll probably be a book tour! The valedictorian finishes speaking and Ablin announces the next speech to the crowd's surprise - class maladictorian (lowest grade point average!) Trip Windsor! 

    With the officiant having just gotten in place, Katie gets a welcome surprise when the bagpipes start playing - Franklin made it! And now it's go time for the Ottos. Greg and Oliver jog up to the stage and steal some white balloons for a makeshift wedding arch. Anna-Kat gets out of her seat and walks down the aisle sprinkling a basket of flower petals. And Maria enters in a beautiful tea-length dress (She was able to cut off the scorch marks!) and asks Katie if she'll give her away.

    Katie happily accepts and walks her down the aisle, while Ablin rips off his gown to reveal a kilt. Trip gives a speech that somehow relates graduation to love, and in the process is able to convince Taylor that they're gonna make it. And then he pronounces Ablin and Maria "Principle and Wife!" 

    Taylor graduates and as the family's taking graduation pictures, Katie notices how somber Oliver is. He finally admits that Cooper is moving and breaks down to Katie. 

     Anna-Kat finds Franklin, who still acts cold told her. She reassures him that nothing will happen and he says that she doesn't know what happens at summer camp - girls get their first kiss. Anna-Kat's surprised to find out that's what Franklin is really worried about and kisses him on the cheek. Problem solved - much to Franklin's delight.

    Later, the Ottos have a final dinner with Cooper, where he thanks them for showing him what it means to be part of a real family and tells them how much he loves them. Katie tells Cooper that she and Greg have something to tell him too. They've spoken to his parents, and they're fine with Cooper moving in with the Ottos for the rest of high school if he'd like. Cooper (and Oliver) are thrilled! 

    Random Thoughts: 
    -Franklin wears a Life Alert bracelet? Why am I not surprised? 

     -I want one of Lonnie's paintball bazookas! The fun I could have... 

     -The best line goes to Franklin when discussing the dangers of summer camp - "There's no more dangerous place in the world than summer camp. Except maybe Olive Garden. Those unlimited breadsticks are dangerous to my waistline." 

     Did you see Cooper moving in with the Ottos coming? Are you surprised that Taylor's taking a gap year? Will it take you a while to get used to the new Anna-Kat? Let me know below!

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