Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Trophy Wife: "Halloween"

Illustration for article titled Trophy Wife: "Halloween"

Ah, there’s our Trophy Wife Halloween. Has there ever been a Halloween episode in which the family goes War On Terror on a trick-or-treater for his alleged pranks? Parks And Recreation comes close with “Greg Pikitus,” although the mystery plotting in that episode puts this one to shame. Whether or not he’s actually a vandal is a MacGuffin. If it wasn’t obvious the guy was guilty from the beginning, the tell-tale eggs nail that coffin shut. Instead the plot pokes at the characters, revealing things like lawyer Pete’s pro-Guantanamo leanings. He seizes the kid’s candy, he searches his backpack, he de facto detains him for hours. Lawyer Pete is kind of scary.

The vandal tries to appeal to inferiority, stoking the nonexistent embers of Warren’s frustration that he had to get his wisdom teeth removed on Halloween, telling Hillary she’s the only cool one in the family, and wondering how such a smart woman as Diane could have ever ended up with Pete. Weirdly, they’re all buying, although that’s partly the pain medication. And to the extent that his Dylan-McDermott-level manipulation works, nobody really helps him out very much. He asks Hillary how she handles such a stressful household. “I just close my eyes and pretend I’m at Princeton.” “You’ll get there.” “I know.”

The plot resolves—again, pay no attention to the mechanics behind the curtain—because Diane finally just decides to give the kid his candy, which she could have done at any point. But seeing Diane and Pete spend the episode together is valuable, especially after “The Tryst.” She respects his authority to a reasonable extent—well, a little past reasonable, but it’s a nice gesture—and they bounce off each other beautifully. When the kid interrupts them, Pete says, “I’ll be with you in a second, Eggs… Benedict… Arnold.” “Reaching,” says Diane. Their relationship feels so real this week. You could see them together at one point in their lives, and you can see them amicably coordinating schedules for their children nowadays. Diane even breaks free from the scowl a few times, and in a gargoyle costume, no less.

And in the other half—see? Total pros at dividing the cast into two groups—Kate, Jackie, and Bert bring the comedy like nobody’s business. Jackie surprises Bert with a homemade Ironing Man costume like he asked for, so it’s incumbent on Kate to stand in line at a costume store on Halloween and get him what he actually asked for. Pete tells her that’s a rookie mistake. “Not the way I do it.” She tries to cut in line, but it’s tough. She fails playing the girlfriend, and she fails playing the cool older sister/aunt. What finally gets her in line is when she plays mom to two nerdy teens. Well, hot stepmom with money, but you get the picture. Kate isn’t who she used to be.

Jackie is finding she can’t go home again, either, which is a shame comedically, because I’d love to see a classic Jackie-and-Bert Halloween where they dress up as imagined superheroes with good, domestic values, drink their homemade pumpkin beverages, and chant. You heard that right. As Bert tells Kate, “You know so much more about Halloween than my mom. All she knows are the chants.” There’s a totally relatable reason for Jackie’s approach: Halloween is about creating rituals with your kids, she says. Isn’t that where most holidays derive their power—family ritual? But Bert is interested in the more popular Halloween of trick-or-treating and candy, and he wants cool Kate to take him. Jackie pretends to try to make the most of it: “More pumpkin broth for me.” “Halloween” would be great even if it were just a supercut of a powdered-face Michaela Watkins barely containing her revulsion at Bert temporarily picking Kate over her.

As with the egger, there’s no mystery to who’s harassing Kate in the trenchcoat and rubber mask, but at least the spookiness in this half is less civil-rights wasteland and more Halloween fun. Speaking of which, as in “The Tryst,” nobody can guess one another’s costumes. “Nope! I’m Ewwen Degemewes!” says Warren, who’s been practicing her dance (and apparently whole episodes) for week. Kate thinks Jackie’s Queen Elizabeth costume is Lady Gaga. Bert doesn’t know what a centaur is. “Sometimes when a man loves a horse,” Kate begins to tell him. And that’s just the tip of the sexually frank iceberg in “Halloween.” Kate’s shocked that the straight-edge teens don’t have sex. She and Jackie bond over anonymous Halloween (or just costumed) hook-ups. Pete spies Hillary giving the egger a blow-pop. There’s a same-sex kiss between extras, and at the end Kate thanks an old lady for her support when she mistakes Kate and Jackie for a lesbian couple, which one imagines is probably a regular occurrence for the women in this family. Trophy Wife is the last show on ABC’s Tuesday comedy block, the one closest to late-night, but still, Trophy Wife is unashamed.


Naturally, Kate and Jackie bicker, to Bert’s dismay. In the middle of their argument, they tell him simultaneously, “We’re not fighting!”/”We love each other!” Bert runs away (“I knew I should have had him micro-chipped”), and Kate and Jackie bond over his rescue, but not before a predictable but hilarious sequence in which they realize: “We just kidnapped two kids.” At the end, the joke is still a little more on Jackie, accusing Kate of misreading social cues the week after that cautionary dating video. And it turns out Bert was just using Kate’s trick-or-treating tactics to get the best candy over the course of a night. Kate saved his Halloween twice. The Harrison family is changing.

Stray observations:

  • How do you think Meg spent Halloween?
  • Kate says, “What’s happening to this country?” Bert says, “You sound like my bus driver.”
  • You can hear Bert screaming about Ironing Man in the kitchen. “You hear that?” Jackie asks Kate. “That is the sound of pure joy.”
  • Jackie: “Can I give you money for this?” Kate: “Oh, do you have money?” “Uh, no.” “Then no.” “Okay, so we’re even.”