BASKETS Review: “Marthager”

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Chip and Martha shippers have a long road ahead of them if they want to see their dreams come true.

“Marthager” finds the pair reconnecting after Chip’s great adventure, and their chemistry is exactly what it’s been forever: Chip keeping an arm’s length and Martha settling for whatever friendship she can get. Only this time Chip acknowledges a friendship, a key scene for the two as he attempts to get his life back in motion.

So “Marthager” is ’ most earnest attempt at showing Chip and Martha as friends. It’s an episode filled with little discoveries and necessary plot points, but it’s relatively quiet, almost unfulfilling.

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In “Marthager,” Chip enlists Martha as manager (clever title, huh?). She knows nothing about being an entertainment manager, so she books Chip at her employee picnic without ever booking him. Then she gets wires crossed and books Chip at a car accident. It’s handled appropriately in the dry Baskets tone, probably the funniest moment of the episode.

Luckily Chip meets Virginia, who runs an entertainment agency that books people like him. Despite the terrible 60-40 manager’s cut, and the part-time pay, Chip is all in, making Virginia do the dirty work of firing Martha while gigging behind his friend’s back. Martha, still doing anything to keep Chip happy, books him for her nephew’s birthday party. But Chip has a better gig at a parade. Thus, Martha grins and bears it, putting on the clown makeup to keep everyone happy.

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Only nobody really cares. Martha’s nephew just wants to play with his Super Soaker, while Chip is happy collecting a couple hundred dollars at his gig. So this is about Martha, how desperately she wants to connect to Chip – or anyone, for that matter.

First off, Martha Kelly is great as Martha. She toes the line perfectly – on one side a stoner without any direction, on the other side a needy old maid you can’t shake off. She’s dry without winking at you, sad without pouring it on. It fits Baskets like a glove.

We find out in “Marthager” that she’s 48, soon (in 10 months) to be 49. And yet she has no noticeable gray hairs (Would she color her hair?). She hangs with her niece and nephew whenever possible, and her house is filled with little collectibles, a Home Goods-style “Friends” icon placed on the front door. Martha is without much stress, without much of a challenge, seemingly content in her compartmentalized existence, one she likely came to terms with long ago.

And yet she wants more. When Chip finally acknowledges the two are friends, she beams. Maybe she wants more than that (again, long road), but at least we have the first part out of the way. Chip and Martha are going to be OK. In fact, Chip seems to be doing OK, too. He has jobs and he’s trying to be normal (he confesses such to Martha). Good for him.

Christine, meanwhile, is still searching. Her house is a wreck (thanks to the fight), so she moves in with her mother (Ivy Jones), who on the surface cares more about her dog than her daughter. But Christine sheds her defenses and lets out her vulnerabilities, talking about Ken, the guy she met at the Reagan Library. Mom tells Christine to go to Denver and see Ken; moreover, and maybe more importantly, she tells Christine to stop worrying all the time about Chip, Dale and the other twins.

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This sort of resets Christine in a small way. Though we’ve lost track of her weight loss exploits (they may be gone now, for all we know), we get the sense she just wants to be happy. And seeing her waiting for the flight to Denver is a welcome visual. Let’s get next week’s Denver episode. Let’s see what Christine can do free from Chip and Dale.

Interestingly, future episodes are “Funeral,” “Yard Sale” and “Circus.” Considering Christine’s late-night reaction to her mother zoning out while watching infomercials (“I thought you were dead!”), one may be able to read the tea leaves here.

Ultimately season two of Baskets is about our characters finding connections with reality. And all of the characters seem to circle back to fathers and their destructive legacies. Surely we’ll be visiting this in a much deeper way before the season is out.
TB-TV-Grade-BSeason 2, Episode 6 (S02E06)
Baskets airs Thursdays at 10 PM on FX

Read all of our reviews of Baskets here.
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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.

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