In the first three episodes, Once & Again has covered dating, sex and the stigmas that come with both. So what’s on tap for episode four? Nothing, and that’s the problem. Rick and Lily can’t get their schedules to coordinate, so they have nowhere private to go, at least until Lily’s sister Judy offers up her place. It’s perfect until her sister comes home early and discovers them all over each other. The first meeting between sibling and significant other does not go well.
While the adults are indisposed, the kids are left to pick up the pieces. Eli has to cover for Rick when Karen arrives early and looking for him. Grace, meanwhile, struggles with her crush on Eli. In an attempt to one-up Jennifer, she signs up for the high school’s mock trial team, on which Jennifer is prosecuting attorney.
It’s here that comes my first major nitpick about this show: I was prosecuting counsel on my high school’s mock trial team, and I can say the experience was nothing like how it was depicted here. We certainly never prepared for it by watching Judge Judy. We would have eaten these kids for lunch. Then again, the trademark of my mock trial tenure was making opposing counsel terrified and defendants cry (not an exaggeration), so perhaps I took things more seriously than Jennifer and her cohorts. The entire point of this subplot is that Grace talks with Jennifer and they actually start to get along, which only further muddles Grace’s worldview.
Most of the episode consists of Rick and Lily being unable to keep their hands off each other, which gets to be tedious by the second time. Their escapades begin to get in everyone else’s way: Eli finds he’s left a textbook he needs at his father’s house, only to walk in to several unpleasant noises and flee. As a result, he’s not properly prepared for the following day’s exam (though he probably did save himself a therapy bill). It’s not surprising that he fails the test. Judy ends up having to babysit Lily’s daughters so she can run off and see Rick, and takes offense at being caught in the middle. Rick’s daughter Jessie has problems with a homework assignment because she can’t find her father to interview him. Everyone suffers, but Rick and Lily don’t seem to notice.
Jessie finds Eli’s missing textbook, and Karen confronts Eli about his not studying for the exam. He doesn’t feel comfortable telling her the truth, and instead has a fight with his younger sister, who accuses him of trying to be a surrogate father. Eli finally cracks under the pressure and blows up at his father when he goes to retrieve the book. “I have been covering up for you for weeks,” he tells Rick, on the verge of tears as he feels pulled in two separate directions by his parents. “I have to.” He’s trying to protect his mother from having to know more about his father’s new relationship than she already does, given how badly Karen took finding out last episode. He storms out before Rick can placate him.
Lily, meanwhile, tries to repair her relationship with Judy, who still doesn’t quite get along with Rick, who is getting into an argument with Karen. Karen admits in her interview with the camera that she exposed her son to how hurt she was, perhaps subconsciously wanting his help. She has to face that her former spouse is seriously moving on. She realizes what she’s done, and tells Eli that he doesn’t have to take care of her.
“Liars and Other Strangers” is my least favorite episode of Once & Again so far, because there’s just not as much worth watching in it as the previous three. Each of the prior episodes felt like it taught me something and entertained me; this did neither. I was certainly compelled by the drama going on between Eli and his parents (no one can resist the power of Shane West’s sad expressions!) but that’s the only storyline that had anything worthwhile in it to me. Everyone knows what it feels like to be in the middle of two people you care about. The rest of it felt more like filler between Rick and Lily’s liaisons, which aren’t exactly something I need to see more of anyway. Other than Karen finally facing her emotions and Eli admitting how much he’s trying to protect her, there’s nothing of note here. That’s a shame, but I suppose they can’t all be great episodes.
This will be my last O&A Rewind Recap for a little while (in order to feature other series), but I’m still watching my way through the show, so keep an eye on this space – you just might see Rick, Lily, Eli and everyone else again sometime soon. I’ve come to love them, and I hope you have, too.