The Chances might not be the world’s most ambitious family, but they're clearly blessed with a competitive spirit. Nearly every week on Raising Hope, we find Jimmy, Virginia, and Burt trying to outdo one another in one way or another, usually through elaborate pranks and incessant ribbing. What you and I might call “hazing,” the Chances call “quality time with the fam.”
This week, the tit-for-tat begins with a pregnancy scare. Tyler stops by to tell the Chances that he has to cut off their gas because of an unpaid bill. Virginia insists this can't be possible. But it turns out there's a glitch in her seemingly foolproof method for paying the bill. Every time she gets her period, it’s time to pay the gas bill and refill Maw Maw’s prescriptions, only it turns out her monthly visitor—and the gas bill—are both two weeks late. (Note: Was anyone else expecting Maw Maw’s lack of drugs to play a role in this episode and pleasantly surprised when it didn’t?) The idea of taking care of another baby is scary enough, but what’s even worse is the possibility that Burt and Virginia will no longer be able to make fun of Jimmy’s unplanned pregnancy. “We can’t just go back to making fun of his stupid T-shirts,” Burt says. Indeed.
Virginia makes an appointment at the free clinic to find out what’s going on under the ol’ hood. The good news is that she’s not pregnant; the bad news is that while there, she bumps into Sabrina, who’s in the midst of her own pregnancy scare (and not, as she fibs, getting a flu shot). Sabrina asks Virginia to keep the information confidential, which seems like a pretty reasonable request. But Virginia levels with her. “I'd like to, but I'm not great at holding on to gossip,” she says. After a day spent scrubbing toilets, divulging secrets makes her feel powerful—“ like those cool scumbags on TMZ.” Fair enough, but Sabrina’s still not going to let her secret get out. If Virginia squeals, then Sabrina will, too.
As long as they’re even, Virginia will be able to rein in her urge to gossip. The only problem is, Jimmy soon finds out about Burt and Virginia’s pregnancy scare, which instantly renders Sabrina powerless. To her credit, Virginia tries to sneak out the door before Jimmy can see her involuntary gossip face, but she immediately confronts Sabrina about the issue. The only solution? Virginia has to share yet another secret with Sabrina. And so, we discover that somewhere, shrouded in a Fast and the Furious VHS case, is a Burt and Virginia sex tape.
In the end, Sabrina discovers she’s not pregnant, so the tit-for-tat can finally end. But all the secret-sharing and blackmailing turns out to be a bonding experience for Sabrina and Virginia. Should Jimmy ever make the moves on Sabrina, it’s clear she’ll fit right in with the in-laws. The secret-swapping is a clever—but not too clever—storyline that I found particularly amusing. It’s also refreshing that Virginia’s insatiable urge to gossip is not indicative of some moral defect but rather an involuntary urge that rises out of her “like an armadillo.” Granted, I say that as someone who has been known to enjoy a little gossip myself, so maybe I have some personal investment in the matter.
Meanwhile, Burt and Jimmy have an intimate bonding session of their own. After the pregnancy scare, the Chance household takes a vote and determines that it’s time for Burt to get a vasectomy. Jimmy offers a urologist (played by Sam McMurray, a.k.a. Dr. Vic Schweiber) free pool-cleaning services in exchange for the surgery. Even under the influence of some trippy sedatives, Burt is reluctant to go under the knife. In an attempt to prevent the operation, he refuses to shave his junk which means that it’s decision-time for Jimmy: Shave his dad’s balls, or run the risk of another sibling?
I have to confess, this was all a touch much for me. The scene at the urologist's office is very funny, to a point. I’m all for potty humor; I'm even a fan of roofie jokes. But that shot of Jimmy between his dad's legs, Bic in hand, made me feel icky. There something vaguely incest-y about the whole thing. Sure, Jimmy’s a legal adult, and he did choose to give his dad a haircut, however begrudgingly. And Jimmy is the one forcing Burt to sterilize himself, which, you know, is not exactly cool. But forcing your son to shave your cojones to prove a point? Not cool, dude. Raising Hope has a tendency to go-for-broke when it comes to irreverent humor. Mostly, this is a tactic I condone, but sometimes it can be obnoxious. Case in point: most of the pilot. Another case in point: ball-shaving. Personally, I prefer the more delicate material, like jokes about penises that look like Vin Diesel.
Inappropriate father-son genital contact notwithstanding, this is a solid episode of Raising Hope—sweet, funny, and dense with one-liners. There’s also a breeziness to the writing that was sorely absent from last week's clunky, cumbersome episode. Given a choice between testicle-shaving and Maw Maw on rollerskates, I’ll take the balls.
- "Dad, I have told you a hundred times, I have no idea who Andrew Dice Clay is."
- "I love making fun of his unplanned pregnancy. I don't want to lose that."
- "Don't get me wrong. Burt's no slouch, but he can't steer a boat."
- "My pool's not turning green just because you're getting a case of cold walnuts."
- "If you're uncomfortable with a man doing it, we could ask one of my female students. She's Asian."
- "Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go to the bathroom and wash my eyes."
- "They're gonna see my wiener, which looks a little like Vin Diesel."
- "Who knows how long natural gas is going to be around for. But Pac-man is forever."
- "Remember that time somebody knocked over the statue at the black church and everybody thought it was a hate crime?"