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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Baskets switches focus to Christine and Dale as they struggle with lifestyle changes

Illustration for article titled Baskets switches focus to Christine and Dale as they struggle with lifestyle changes

This week’s episode of Baskets moves away from Chip and his struggles on the lam and refocuses its attention to two other main characters this season: Christine and Dale, both of whom have gone through serious changes since the end of last season. For Christine, it means adjusting to her diabetes and trying to live a healthier, more active lifestyle. For Dale, it means learning how to contend with single life after separating from his wife Nicole (Ellen D. Williams). They each approach their struggles differently, but both read as attempts from Galifianakis and co. to reestablish lines of empathy towards characters that haven’t received much screen time this season. “Bail” mostly achieves this end, but not as effectively or potently as the series’ best episodes.

Let’s begin with Dale, who is in the process of pursuing an indifferent Martha after their affair led to the dissolution of his marriage. Dale wants to take Martha to a movie (“of the Pixar variety,” he says), but she says she can’t because she’s trying to bail Chip out of jail. Dale promises to make the “Chip problem” go away, which means rushing over to tell Christine that she needs to pony up $10,000 to get Chip out of a Camarillo cell. While Christine is off to Camarillo, Dale makes a Costco run to buy a bunch of chocolates and condoms, a sports jacket, and a Fedora for his date, making him look like the aging, try-hard father that he is at heart.

As anyone can reasonably surmise, the date does not go well. Besides the fact that Dale and Martha have no chemistry and their interactions are so tense that you can cut through them with a knife, the date goes south as soon as Dale starts laying out his intentions in the car: He plans to make her his long-term girlfriend. Of course, Martha is less interested in dating Dale and more concerned about Chip, whom Dale dismisses as “a felon.” When Martha breaks the news, Dale storms off, complaining about her selfishness and how the date almost cost him $40. He eventually gets drunk off of mimosas in a bar, fails to make a pass at three women at a table, and ends up in his old home trying to microwave an unopened frozen pizza box.

It’s a sad state of affairs for Dale, but the story doesn’t really get off the ground as well as it should mostly because of Dale’s one-note characterization. As conceived by Galifianakis, Dale is a loud, obnoxious blowhard that tries to brag about his accomplishments and tear down his brother at any chance he gets. Though the character has previously been humanized, especially in the first season episode “Sugar Pie,” Galifianakis plays the character primarily as larger-than-life comic relief, which means his irritating qualities inevitably circumscribe his emotional core. It’s tragic to watch Dale realize that his relationship with Nicole is likely permanently damaged, but credited writer Samuel D. Hunter keeps the emotion at too far a distance.

This isn’t the case with Christine, whom Hunter sensitively depicts and easily susses out the emotion in her struggles. Struggling with her diabetes, Christine travels to Camarillo and bails Chip out of prison all while trying to keep her lifestyle on schedule. Though she’s clearly uncomfortable with doing water aerobics exercises, she does it anyway, but finds it difficult at a hotel pool swarming with children. She hides the chocolate mints in the safe so she doesn’t become tempted to eat them. She berates Chip for trying to coax her into eating three deserts at Applebee’s. In short, she’s trying, but she’s still plagued by feelings of guilt about her parenting. “One thing I’ve learned after all these years is that you just can’t give up,” says a kind gentlemen at the prison who tells her that just by showing up for her kid means that she’s trying, which is the battle.

But the episode’s ending all but confirms that Christine’s path must be defined beyond the scope of Chip and Dale’s lives. After Chip falls asleep in the middle of her monologue, she decides to take action, which means flushing the mints down the toilet, driving to a secluded beach, and doing her exercises in private. She can’t only be a mother any longer, as it’s not providing her with comfort or happiness. She must also be a person with goals and ambitions of her own, a concept her children took to heart much faster than she did. It’s time she caught up.


Stray observations

  • Jonathan Krisel is sort of the unsung hero of this show as his faded visual aesthetic captures the melancholy of the show wonderfully. The last few shots of the episode are beautiful.
  • Christine’s monologue in full: “You know, I never claimed to be the best mother. Half the time I don’t even know if I was a very good mother. But I promised myself that I would try to be a better parent than my parents were, and well, that turned out to be harder than you think because with you Chip, I’m not sure how to be a good mother.”
  • “I dunno what to tell you mom, I’m a Millennial!” “What does that even mean?!” “I actually don’t know.”
  • “$10,000 bail. We could just go to Hawaii.”
  • “Well, why not? This was a very successful first date, I just said that!”
  • “Maybe this is a good opportunity to sign up for Uber.”
  • “$48 for sixteen momosas?!”
  • “I’m not gonna smoke heroin in an Applebees, mom.”