I’m so relieved that Christine’s story worked out well.
“Denver,” in which Christine ventures out to the Rocky Mountain city to see Ken, a guy she met during Chip’s jail stint and felt an attraction to, could’ve gone a couple different ways. Most of them badly.
First, there’s the Swingers way. I cringe when foolish romantic characters pick up a phone to dial someone who may or may not be interested. Most times it ends up like Swingers, in which Jon Favreau’s Mikey dials the woman he met at a party, Nikki, about 20 times before she finally picks up and slams him as a creep. That’s typically how it goes. Our protagonist is so down in the mud that it’s only a matter of time before someone shows him or her the hammer.
Another way is Christine gets some time with Ken, only they don’t see eye to eye. Maybe Christine makes a bold and unwanted pass. Maybe she screws something up with his daughters. And we’re left with Christine down in the dumps (and even more down – we’ll get to that later) when she meets Chip and Martha at the airport.
But no. Christine is tragic, sure, but she’s putting her life in her own hands this season. She’s determined to lose weight (or we still think?), she’s determined to break her children from her shackles, and she’s determined to seek out love, even if the possibilities are as small as a phone number on a business card.
Plus, I like Christine. She’s pretty grounded, funny at times, and she’s sweet, always looking after her kids and mother. She needs a victory. And a big one.
So when she tells Ken she’s glad she came out, and when Ken agrees, and when she tells Ken she came out only to see him, and when Ken says he knew that, and when they kiss … it’s wonderful. Absolutely wonderful. It’s rewarding and satisfying.
But this is BASKETS, so Chip has to (sort of) screw things up and drag Christine back home. Grandmom is dead.
The secondary plot is relatively simple. Christine forgets she has to take Grandmom to the doctor, so she first enlists Dale, who does the Dale thing and says no. Then she asks Chip, who of course says yes (even taking the call in the middle of working a girl’s birthday party).
So Chip and Martha prepare to drive Grandmom to the doctor, only Grandmom takes advantage of the thin Chip and Martha and drives herself to the casino. Then she meets some friends for drinks and dollar steaks. Then she’s goaded to dance. Then she dies.
This is handled as direct as possible, with a couple jokes sprinkled in about cookies.
And while I wouldn’t have minded a little more Grandmom, and maybe her death is a little too unceremonious and cliche (she drops, smash cut to the blanket being fit over the corpse), it cleans things up without much mess. Christine needs to come home to confront her children. She needs to deal with loss. She needs to break free completely from this.
So I bask in the small moments that really do shine. Like Martha left to pick up (and awkwardly roll away) Christine’s luggage after she and Chip embrace in the airport. Or Margaret and Chip failing at a “high-five” moment (Martha’s way of pumping up Chip). Or Dale abusing another person, this time one of the teachers at his continuing education business.
These are the things that ultimately separate Baskets from other 22-minute shows. Its environment is real life, its characters, while odd and mostly on the fringes, are still completely believable in Bakersfield, California.
Well, that’s not ultimately true. What really separates Baskets from other shows is Louie Anderson, who’s been superb this year. Another Emmy nomination is almost guaranteed, and “Denver” might just be the episode that secures that.
Season 2, Episode 7 (S02E07)
Baskets airs Thursdays at 10PM on FX
Timothy, who grew up on The Golden Girls and Seinfeld, writes regularly about entertainment, arts and lifestyles for a number of publications.
Follow Timothy on Twitter: @timothymalcolm
Keep up with all of Timothy’s reviews here.
Timothy Malcolm | Contributor