After three episodes in which Weeds explored the direct ramifications of Nancy’s shooting, “Only Judy Can Judge” returns us to the moments directly before that shooting by reconstructing the family unit gathered together at the time. In a clearly mirrored sequence, a post-injury Nancy tries to give another rousing speech to the residents of the Botwin-Price-Gray compound, but it’s a different group at the table: Silas has a random new friend, Shane has a girlfriend, and whatever stability Nancy was trying to recapture feels gone even before the bag of feces flies over the fence.
The speed at which some of these developments are introduced is problematic, but “Only Judy Can Judge” continues a season in which Nancy’s storyline remains the highlight. Her struggle to maintain control of her family in the wake of her injury raises questions about her physical and mental state, certainly, but it also raises questions about how she managed it in the first place, or rather whether she managed it. Was she a good mother to Stevie when she was able to keep up with him at the zoo? Was she involved in her kids’ lives when she was spending her time building a drug empire? “Only Judy Can Judge” places Nancy as the judge of this, as her attempt to return to normalcy has her fumbling for words (including Stevie’s name, calling him Judah), struggling to focus, and finding her only solace in trespassing in a neighbor’s pool late at night—in other words, finding her only solace when she’s allowed to be alone (or, at the end of the episode, alone with Stevie).
Nancy’s late night swims are peaceful, but they’re also clandestine. The comparisons between Weeds and Breaking Bad have been inevitable since the latter series began, and while the two shows have gone down different paths since their similar beginnings I’d argue that Nancy and Walt are similarly dependent on their transgressions. The difference is that Weeds has indulged Nancy, providing her with support structures in the seventh season that allowed her to imagine a new suburban stability similar to the now idyllic beginnings of the series, whereas Walter White has been offered no such stability (even if, without spoiling that series, Walt believes it to be attainable through his own genius). “Only Judy Can Judge” breaks down the idylls of Nancy’s dream of a suburban drug compound, and it is only when she breaks free from the compound—first alone, and then again with Stevie—that she finds any peace in her new world. That she’s breaking-and-entering while she’s doing it maintains that transgressive thrill, a new outlet for an old feeling that Nancy doesn’t want to lose as she finds her grip on that life falling away.
Nancy’s journey back into normalcy also involves an attempt to right the ship in regard to her drug business, which involves running into the bubble-hash peddler whose tattoo gives the episode its title. Those scenes have moments of frustration, like the unwelcome return of Demetri’s dunderheaded friends from last season’s finale, but they generally serve their purpose of demonstrating to Nancy that she can’t live that life the way she did before. She can still get her way in the end, but it means bargaining away her cane and playing on Demitri’s pity rather than his fear or lust. It’s a similar situation to her domestic struggles, with the one key difference that while Jill and Andy are able to replace Nancy as Stevie’s parents and the grounding force of the Botwin-Price-Gray compound, Kiku isn’t as ready to take over for Nancy in terms of acquiring product.
The episode spends most of its energy building a conflict between and within Nancy’s two worlds (the domestic and the criminal), and I like the result in terms of Nancy’s character. It does mean, however, that the domestic conflicts range from the mildly underdeveloped (Jill’s anxiety over Andy’s connection with Nancy), to the underdeveloped (Shane’s sudden relationship with the nameless female cadet—who we learn is named Angela—from two weeks ago), to the completely undeveloped (Silas’ sudden friendship with a random pot aficionado he picks up at a grow store), and to the “I refuse to believe this is an actual storyline” (Doug’s confrontation with a neighbor regarding the feces that keeps ending up on their morning newspaper). With so much time focused on Nancy, the other storylines largely move their way into place to play as disruptive a role as possible during Nancy’s second attempt at a family toast.
While Shane and Silas’ storylines feel like bare bones starting point for future developments, the other two storylines are given a bit more time. In the case of Andy and Jill’s relationship, its utility is beginning to show through as the writers more overtly play up the parenting triangle that has formed between them. Andy and Nancy may never be a romantic couple, but they’re an emotional couple, and their sweet little moment after the party is one of the episode’s strongest scenes. I still don’t particularly care about Andy and Jill’s relationship, but “Only Judy Can Judge” reframed the relationship in terms of Andy’s goals for the future, and his lament that it’s strange to only be committed to a single person speaks well to his complicated relationship with Nancy and her messed up life. The episode also smartly avoids the histrionics of the previous custody battle, allowing Jill to be a jealous over-medicater rather than a malicious child-stealer.
And yet for every bit of nuance added to that dynamic, it’s taken away by Doug’s bodily battle with their next door neighbor (who turns out to be the son of the older couple from the première). As much as I understand the show’s commitment to broad humor alongside more serious subjects, the idea that we’re getting a “Sleep Pooping” storyline has the show straying into intolerable territory. I have always felt ambivalent—and occasionally punchy—about Weeds’ broad humor, but the closer we get to the show’s conclusion and the deeper we get into Nancy’s recovery, it starts to feel that much more destructive to the success of a given episode.
“Only Judy Can Judge” grew on me upon second viewing, perhaps because the audacity of ending it with a surprise twist in “The Case of the Phantom Pooper” was no longer a violent shock to my system. Its success is in the fact that it feels like the real start to the season, giving us a better sense of the character dynamics and individual storylines that will provide structure moving forward. While the tight focus on Nancy means some of this remains unfocused, and Doug’s storyline proved a rather frustrating distraction, I’d argue the eighth season is in better shape now than it has been thus far, which is a step in the right direction.
- This week’s “Little Boxes” comes from Mariachi El Bronx, which recently visited the round room for an installment of A.V. Undercover.
- Hope the Alexander Gould tumblrs—which I can confirm exist after I stumbled upon them a few weeks ago—were ready for Shane in his underwear practicing his billy club maneuvers in the mirror. I was not. I did appreciate the chance to see the siblings acting like siblings, though.
- Can we have a conversation about how delicious Dimetapp is? Or is that weird? Because it’s delicious.
- Not sure if the show intends to go anywhere with the overseer of Nancy’s late-night swims, but there’s an actor listed in the credits for the episode who didn’t appear onscreen but has appeared on the show before, which could hint to the character’s identity.
- I know you were all hung up on it, so I checked the credits: That was Taylor who answered the door when the cop showed up, not… the other one whose name I never remember. [Looks it up.] It’s Shayla! Anyway, I wonder how the writers chose which twin would appear in the episode. I presume they flipped a coin.