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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Just when the Good Girls think they’re out, they pull themselves back in

Illustration for article titled Just when the iGood Girls/i think they’re out, they pull themselves back inem/em
Graphic: Steve Dietl (NBC)
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After ending last week’s episode with Beth going right back to Rio, looking for more work, this week’s episode gets right back to business. This time, the crime-of-the-week is technically smaller, in terms of activity—there’s more involved with last week’s smuggling than there is this week’s housing a fugitive—but it all leads to the ladies getting more into Rio’s “street people” world. And based on everything’s that currently happening in said ladies’ lives, it’s kind of a necessity, all things considered. (Most of the consideration is that this is a television series where crime needs to be happening at all times.)

So, Beth reveals to Annie and Ruby that she offered to do another job for Rio, and as she—reasonably, even—points out when explaining it to them, they still all very much need the money. After all, we learn that Stan plans to pay for Sara’s next month of meds with four different credit cards… and that still won’t cover the necessary $10,000. (None of this makes Annie’s “I just can’t believe it’s you, not me.” any less true though.) Of course, Beth being Beth—and even four episodes in, it’s worth noting she’s already the type of character where one can confidently say that—she has second thoughts about her choice once the unconscious, heavily-bleeding man on her adorable daughter’s bed comes into the picture. But the combination of her being pretty persuasive and the almighty dollar keep Annie and Ruby on board with her original decision, as insane as it might sound. The way the episode ends, however, is the most important part, because it’s an ending that officially brings the trio in in a way that isn’t just on an episode-by-episode basis. Beth, Annie, and Ruby essentially become Rio’s employees by the end of it all.


But in keeping in mind that is the most important part, it’s worth noting that the bleeding gang member (Robert Jumper)—while part of a couple of amusing scenes and the reason for a couple others—is part of the least compelling crime-of-the-week story so far. A large part of that is because he’s either unconscious or simply gone. Instead, this episode relies on the personal aspects the most, which ultimately have their place but also highlight how Good Girls could run out of crime possibilities (before the episode’s conclusion).

So in focusing on the personal aspects, first up, we have Annie dealing with the issue of Sadie being bullied at school. In addition to stealing her lunch money, kids have been pantsing her; because, in her words, “They want to know what I am.” This episode has a strong “kids can be the worst” throughline, but it’s not the most important part—mostly because everyone already knows this. Here, Gregg eventually continues to be antagonistic toward Annie, but this is the first episode that really shows them getting along, giving us a glimpse of what they saw in each other in the first place. (He also legitimately seems to worry about the stress level she’s at.) And again, one of the best things about the suburban life part of Good Girls is how supportive of a father Gregg is, despite Sadie’s differences. The fact that he’s on board with Annie once he learns the real reason Sadie punched a kid and is later impressed by Annie’s tactic to get the bullies off Sadie’s back (calling it “pretty awesome...even though it does take a dark turn”) proves that they have something in common, at least when it comes to their daughter.

There’s also the return of his argument for Catholic school. But as this episode proves, Sadie’s current school really isn’t a good fit either. The fact that Sadie’s even able to simply go back to class after punching a kid (while it’s self-defense, this is settled before Gregg even learns that) and that no one is getting caught for pantsing her in the first place are some major warning flags. Then you have absolutely no teacher presence in the lunch room when a grown man is threatening some adolescent bullies, which at first look like a “move the plot along” scenario, until they address that Sadie’s school is just not cutting it overall. It’ll be interesting to see if there’s any middle ground between the public school Sadie currently attends and the Catholic school Gregg wants to enroll her in, which goes to show how impressive Good Girls kind of is: It makes a topic of schooling interesting.

Since Good Girls isn’t exactly a wish-fulfillment series—as the moral of the story at this point is “be careful what you wish for, because you just might get it,” even with children’s birthday wishes—that explains why it gives us the beautiful scene of Ruby telling it like it is to the “chop chop” teenage boy... right before realization sets in that “telling it like it is” also means suffering the consequences. Unless you’re a gang leader: Then you can just tell it like it is all day, anywhere you please. But for Ruby, it’s that temporary high followed by that crushing low. (Annie doesn’t get the crushing low when she has the gang member scare the bullies. She just bails when it gets a little too much.) And while Stan is technically right to tell Ruby to suck it up in the first place so they can provide for their children, he’s also very unaware she’s under the additional pressure of a gangbanger. One whose money is actually much better than her diner job and so far has better scenarios (other than threat of death) than dealing with teen boys who get off on making service workers feel less than and intentionally burn themselves on hot skillets after they’ve been emasculated in front of their boys.


Again, the Annie/Ruby storylines mirror each other, feeling the most like a true “struggling parents” situation compared to Beth’s. In both cases this week, there’s a trio of kids ruining things. However, in the Annie story, the pantsing kid tries to pull the Draco Malfoy, “Wait ‘til my father hears about this.” card and it doesn’t work at all. Unfortunately for Ruby, the parent hearing about this case does work.

And speaking of Beth’s story, when it comes to the discussion of Good Girls actually being a cable dramedy stuck in a network setting, Dean faking cancer completely pings on that cable dramedy radar hard. It leans hard into the “everyone’s terrible, never forget that” vibe that could only morph into something bigger on cable, but Good Girls remains a network series that will most likely have to reset at a certain point to wrap everything up at the very end. (Yes, there are exceptions to these rules, but Good Girls has already done quite a bit of network TV resetting so far just on an episode-to-episode basis.) Hopefully, however, the show leans into how bad of a person Dean is. As I’ve mentioned in previous reviews, he doesn’t quite work as just comedic relief, sad dad after his brazen behavior in the pilot. Adding fake cancer to his guilt makes you wonder just how far he will go, especially when you factor in the episode showing off his other terrible qualities. Right before he busts out the c-word—which he only does because Beth suggests divorcing him—you see how this goober is also a pretty possessive guy. He’s throwing out all of the “my house” (that he couldn’t pay for) and the “my wife” (that he cheated on repeatedly).


There’s also the fact that he calls her “Bethy.” No one has ever wanted to be called “Bethy.” But the way Beth replies to his “Don’t worry. I got this.” with a chipper “I know.” is the kind of exchange they must have constantly used throughout their marriage. Only now she knows not to believe he’s got anything. Still, Beth is the one who brings her and her friends back into this crime world, and now she’s pulled back into the wife role because of Dean’s deception. Is this actually what Dean wants? To be back with his wife this way? Be careful what you wish for...

On top of all this, now there’s an FBI agent (James Lesure) involved, thanks to Boomer’s obsession with Annie and need to be involved in something that could actually be considered interesting. Honestly, after the way Boomer interacts with Beth’s son Kenny (“You like to take baths?”), he should officially be put on the list.


Depending on the necessity, Good Girls makes Boomer either absolutely useless or an actual threat, and the birthday scenes are the perfect example of that. One moment he’s dwelling on the price of the birthday party (which doesn’t even matter because of the return policy), the next, he’s spotting Rio for the second time (and snapping his picture for Agent Turner). While Good Girls gives us glimpses at how boring our leading ladies’ lives can be, the same is even truer for Boomer. He’s the manager at the Fine & Frugal, where the most action he’s seen is a robbery featuring the employee he sexually harasses. He’s created a fake relationship with Jessica Alba for his grandmother’s sake. His name is Leslie but he insists on being called “Boomer,” and no, it doesn’t make him come across as more masculine. So of course he immediately volunteers to go undercover (Donnie Brasco’s his favorite movie!) for Turner, because he really has nothing else going on.

All of this is to say: This is why they should have just killed Boomer. Or at least thrown Stan’s spicy chili in his face the second he showed up at Kenny’s birthday party.


So now that Boomer has put Agent Turner in the girls’ orbit, things will likely be a lot harder for them as they try to navigate the crime world. But the point of all of this—as Rio so eloquently says and Beth repeats back—is that it doesn’t matter if they try. All that matters is that they win. Yes, “winning” in this case now mostly means laundering money on top of other crimes. But in terms of their personal lives, “winning” also means Ruby providing for her family legit (at least in their minds) and finding a replacement job for the diner. For Annie, it means winning the custody battle against Gregg. Or at least finding some middle ground when it comes to Sadie’s education. And for Beth, “winning” now means making sure her family doesn’t turn into a dysfunctional broken home and making sure Dean doesn’t die of “cancer.”

Stray observations

  • Rio: “Oh, so you think you can pick and choose what you do and when you wanna do it?”
    Ruby: “She thought it would be like driving for Uber.”
  • Agent Foster: “My Annie was a Paula. She lived in my dorm.”
    Boomer: “What?”
    Agent Foster: “Ah, we both loved Hoobastank.”
  • Beth: “Guys, what is even happening? What are we doing?”
    Ruby: “What do you mean?”
    Beth: “I mean, I am so tired of almost dying.”
    Ruby: “Oh, are you?” Annie has to step in—and Beth doesn’t even realize because she’s already thinking of Emma’s stuffed bunny—but Ruby is a second away from going off on Beth at that point. Because, obviously, the reason they almost died this time is 100% Beth’s fault.
  • Upon realizing that the big-box store the girls were shopping at was Cloud 9, I literally gasped. I gasped again when they made the most relatable terrible person move of all, buying a crap load of things and then coming up with lame excuses for why they couldn’t donate a dollar to the homeless. “Money’s kinda tight.”
  • Annie: “Why?”
    Boomer: “I wanna do something nice.”
    Annie: “Why?”
    Boomer: “So that maybe we could start fresh.”
    Annie: “Why?” The beauty of this exchange is all in the way Mae Whitman changes up her delivery of “Why?” I didn’t play around with italics and the like, because I know I couldn’t do it justice.
  • gang member: “Thanks for loaning me your whip.” Literally not a thing anyone has ever said about a mini-van until now.
  • Ruby: “Just for the record: I’ll never smuggle anything up my butt.”
    Annie: “I could be talked into it, if the compensation was appropriate.” It’s so juvenile, but it amuses me that Ruby and Annie can’t stop dwelling on the possibility of smuggling things up their butts. That’s their biggest issue with all of this!

Contributor, The A.V. Club. Despite her mother's wishes, LaToya Ferguson is a writer living in Los Angeles. If you want to talk The WB's image campaigns circa 1999-2003, LaToya's your girl.

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