When last I left Once & Again, I was cheering that Rick and Lily had finally gotten together. Now, they’re having to try and fit their budding relationship into the overstuffed calendars that come with being working parents. I would not want to be either of them. (I’m somewhat proud to say that my parents never went to a single parent-teacher conference and maybe one back to school night, and only because I asked. They were not the type to bother.) Lily can’t even get Jake out of her kitchen, though since we’re talking about Jeffrey Nordling, I would not complain.
I finally get to see the show’s credit sequence for the first time, and I have to say that it amuses me that the clips do not correspond with the actors being credited. If you didn’t already know who plays what character, you would never figure it out by watching the opening titles. I think it’s a bit weird, but no one asked me.
Speaking of weird, Grace is telling her friend at school all about walking in on her mother’s makeout session from the end of the pilot, still entirely horrified about it. Eli, meanwhile, would rather be loving on his girlfriend Jennifer, which causes Karen and Rick to wonder how seriously involved the two of them are. Eli has to inform his father, after Rick fumbles through “the talk,” that their fears are totally unwarranted. (Shane West has not yet patented his glaring skills, but he’s getting there.) “We’ve been indoctrinated in sexual correctness since the sixth grade,” he points out. Not only is that true, but I’m surprised the writers created a high schooler that’s actually verbose.
Rick and Lily have their second date. It’s not long before they’re hot and heavy in the backseat of his truck, but again, their evening is cut short by her parental responsibilities. This means Rick gets home early and finds that Eli has been upstairs fooling around with Jennifer. After Eli takes his girlfriend home, Rick calls him out on the lie, but says that he isn’t upset that his son may become sexually active, as long as he’s not hiding it. Eli points out that there’s no easy way to tell one’s parents that you plan to sleep with your girlfriend. Touche. For a kid with a learning disability, he’s one smart cookie.
Rick, however, isn’t much better. Trying to shake a girl named Lindsey when Lily calls later that night, he lies to both women about who he’s really on the phone with, then lies again to Karen when she phones in. Maybe he just doesn’t know what to say to any of them, but it makes him a bit of a jerk, not to mention a hypocrite. At least he’s conscious of that unflattering light the next day. Really bad timing and call waiting means that he misses his chance to rectify the situation, and Lily believes that he blew her off. At least they make up the following day.
Eli’s relationship with Jennifer hits the skids, and she tearfully tells him to talk to Grace. Apparently, her telling her one friend that she caught Rick and Lily making out has now mutated into six people telling Eli that he and Grace were the ones who got busted. (Anyone who’s ever played “telephone” can vouch for that being authentic.) Eli and Grace have a small bonding moment over their mutual amusement at their parents’ teenage behavior. Eli and Jennifer are able to somewhat make up, although it exposes her insecurities about advancing their relationship to an intimate level.
Rick and Lily have trouble of their own after Lindsey drops in on their lunch date unannounced, causing Rick to panic and Lily to get a bit gunshy over their planned evening together. (Rick’s coworker and Lily’s sister aren’t helpful to the point of being detrimental.) She decides to cancel on him. In the process of giving Eli advice, Rick is able to figure out that Lily is hiding from him, and turns up on her doorstep. After much fumbling and awkwardness, the two attempt to sleep together, but it quickly disintegrates as each confronts their fears about being intimate with a partner other than their former spouses. Rick can’t perform and Lily, reminded of Jake’s multiple affairs, blames herself. It’s only after she gets that off her chest that the two of them can move forward together, and eventually take their relationship to the next level.
Maybe it’s because I’m closer to 18 than 40, but in this episode, the kids were more interesting to me than the adults were. I could relate to both Eli and Jennifer, and their separate viewpoints on intimacy in their relationship – not just personally, but friends and their relationships also came to mind. At that age, you have almost no idea what you’re doing, your partner has no idea what they’re doing, and yet you’re supposed to make sense of it. It’s basically organized chaos, and I thought the show depicted that perfectly.
I was surprised to see that the writers chose to have Rick and Lily get into bed together after only two dates, when they’re not even a serious couple (at least I gather, as Lily tells Rick “I have no claim on you,” so she obviously does not consider herself his girlfriend yet). I can only imagine – and hope, as this series has been great at confronting actual issues – that decision will come back to bite them in future episodes. It seems way too fast, and I can’t see it not having consequences. I will say that those scenes (and really, the whole episode to an extent) were some of the most frank discussions of sexuality issues in an adult relationship that I’ve ever seen. I can certainly appreciate the plot and the writing, even if I had no desire to see as much of Billy Campbell naked as this episode contains.
There’s one thing that nags me about Once & Again at this point, even though it’s only two episodes in, and that’s the lack of development for the supporting characters. Jake and Karen hopefully will become more than just the people who wander in and out of the episode picking up the kids (that would be a waste of two great actors in Jeffrey Nordling and Susanna Thompson if they didn’t). Rick’s colleague is so annoying already that I want to hit him every time he opens his mouth, and Lily’s sister Judy seems like she only exists to play on Lily’s insecurities and be overly curious about things that aren’t her business. The show has a great core cast, so hopefully it can build on that as Rick and Lily continue to build their relationship.
This is a great little undiscovered gem of a series, and I only wish that the DVD’s weren’t out of print so I could recommend it more. As it is, I fear that it’s going to continue to go unnoticed. (Fans haven’t even been able to get the third and final season released on DVD yet.) That’s a shame, because this is one I’m sorry that I missed.