New Show Recap: “The New Normal,” Episodes 1.09 and 1.10, “Pardon Me” and “The XY Factor”

Apparently there was an episode over Thanksgiving and I didn’t realize it, so this will be a double recap. Yay! Sort of!

“Pardon Me” – We learn that Bryan and David usually spend Thanksgiving in a hot tub somewhere in Big Sur ignoring their families. However, since they’re going to have a family of their own very soon they decide that maybe they should try and be more inclusive this Thanksgiving. David will be inviting his mom and dad, Rocky will be inviting her brother, Goldie and Shania will invite Shania’s dad, and Bryan decides to invite Nana (his own mom is on a cruise of the Baltic). So Thanksgiving should be”¦ interesting.

In preparation for the meal, Bryan and Shania go in search of an organic turkey only to find out the organic turkey farm they’ve selected is the kind where the turkeys are still walking around when you pick them out. Neither Bryan or Shania has the stomach for this, so they buy all the remaining turkeys to spare them from death and take them back home to be a plot device for exactly one episode before they disappear to whatever place plot conveniences disappear to after they’ve served their purpose. But for the moment they just go to Bryan and David’s backyard.

Thanksgiving arrives and in honor of the turkeys, Bryan and Shania have declared it a meatless meal. The guests are all introduced, and we settle in to watch the fireworks. We learn pretty early on that Bryan’s parents still have some issues related to their divorce, that Goldie and Clint (Rocky’s brother) are dating and haven’t told anyone yet, and that Nana’s idea of Thanksgiving involves large piles of meat without any pesky vegetables.

The first wrinkle that comes up is Nana finding out there will be no meat at dinner. After she splutters and rages for a few minutes about not getting to pick and choose which traditions you get to follow, Bryan gets to deliver sort of an excellent speech about how “This is what your family looks like now” and that she should just sit down and shut up because they’re the only ones who will put up with her. And he’s right, and I’m glad SOMEONE is trying to get through to this woman. But her moment of clarity lasts all of two minutes before she begins stalking the turkeys with a cleaver. As you do.

Next, David’s parents start fighting about David’s father’s cheating years ago. David gets disgusted with them and storms off, which leaves them free to turn their passions in a slightly different direction. David returns a few minutes later to find them pawing at each other on the guest room coach and gets to hear that that’s how their marriage went all those years. David tells them to take their disheveled clothing and terrible communication skills elsewhere and they’re the first guests down.

Meanwhile, Goldie and Clint have been trying to keep their attraction to each other under wraps but it’s not going well and eventually even Goldie’s dimwitted husband, Clay, notices something is up. Clay gets angry about Clint getting friendly with his wife, despite the fact that they’re separated mostly because of Clay’s relentless cheating on Goldie. Goldie and Rocky manage to break them up and Goldie orders Clay to leave. Clint volunteers to go as well, since it’s not fair if only one of them pays the price for a fight they both got into. It’s a very decent thing of him, but probably mostly a way to dwindle our cast down to just “family” for this episode.

Nana gets caught stalking after turkeys with an alarmingly large knife and Shania and Bryan are having none of her posturing, and send her back to her hotel. So we’re back down to Bryan, David, Goldie, Shania, and Rocky for Thanksgiving. Just the way it was clearly meant to be from the beginning of the episode.

The family sits down to their Thanksgiving meal and decides that Thanksgiving will always be for them, and Christmas can be for “the relatives”. They dig into their tofurkey and immediately decide to order pizza because tofurkey jokes are still funny.

“The XY Factor” – This episode is narrated by David, which I don’t think has happened before. David talks about how your dreams change as you grow up, and we see a vision of his childhood dream of marrying Shannan Doherty with the lady herself doing a cameo. However, even as David’s life led him away from the ladies of Beverly Hills, he still always pictured himself with a son. He talks about the World Series baseballs he’s collected, and the things he’s thought about doing with his son. He mentions his job and how he tells parents the sex of their baby as part of it, and most parents always say, “We’ll be happy as long as it’s healthy” but everyone has a preference deep down. And I think he’s right. We could get into a long discussion about transgender versus cisgender and that most things you can do with a son you could do with a daughter, but honestly the vast majority of the population is cisgender and I think most people who want children do have a preference. I’ve wanted kids my whole life, but I’ve always pictured having girls or having girls and boys. If I had only boys, I’d be a little disappointed. I wouldn’t love my children any less, but in that funny irrational part of my mind I would be sad to not have a daughter. Anyway, David and Bryan have decided to wait to find out the gender of their baby, but with this opening you know that’s not happening. And in a discussion about baby names, we learn that Bryan is hoping for a girl. Oh.

Goldie is helping Bryan decorate the nursery and he’s frustrated with having to work on a theme that’s gender neutral and Goldie asks him to help Shania pick a prominent woman from history for a class project. I’ll get to that in a minute. Anyway, while Bryan is quizzing her on which wall decal is better, Goldie lets a “he” slip out and Bryan notices immediately. Apparently, Goldie got the heads up on the gender and just accidentally let the cat out of the bag. Bryan looks crestfallen.

David and his friends are coming in from playing some basketball and Bryan goes in to tell David that Goldie accidentally told him the gender and asks if David would like to know and before David can answer, Bryan blurts out “it’s a boy.” David looks stunned for a minute, and Bryan asks if he’s mad. David isn’t mad at all, he’s ecstatic. He starts talking about all the things he’ll be able to do with his son, and yes, most of these things could be done with a daughter, but it’s really adorable to watch him being excited about being a dad. I mean, he was going to be a dad before, but it seems like it’s all become more real for him now. His friends invite David to come help coach pee-wee football that weekend, and he’s even more thrilled. Yay!

While this is going on, Bryan counsels Shania on her historically significant woman. We see the girl before Shania, who picked Mary Todd Lincoln, which makes this at least the second time that woman has shown up on a Ryan Murphy show. Then it’s Shania’s turn and she comes out in a pink glittery outfit and warbonnet as Cher, and proceeds to sing “Half Breed” for her presentation. It seems to go over well, but from the glances some of the audience members throw each other you know something’s up. And sure enough, Shania comes home with a letter stating she failed the project and will be suspected for using offensive language. Goldie decides to put that lawyer suit Bryan and David got her to good use and goes to the school to argue against Shania’s punishment, but even the best legalese one can learn from marathons of Law and Order won’t help her in the face of the school’s principal (played by a personal favorite of mine, James Urbaniak), who says that the rules are the rules and a zero tolerance policy means Shania will be punished no matter what her intentions were. Goldie’s sad and frustrated, and it’s clear this wasn’t how she imagined this playing out. She later says she doubts that she wants to be a lawyer at all anymore and doesn’t know what she wants to do.

Back at pee-wee football, David is clearly having a great time coaching the kids while Bryan sits with some bored moms and asks them how long this usually lasts. “About a bottle of wine” is the answer. Bryan decides he wants to make an effort so he goes over to try and coach the kids a bit and says a lot of very sports-ish things and sends them back out there to run a trick play of his own planning involving two balls. The other team intercepts both and takes them back for two touchdowns. Because the ref wouldn’t stop the play as soon as he realized there were two balls. Anyway, Bryan’s not a sports guy, which I think we knew.

Bryan and David are in the nursery and David’s adding a few touches to the room since they don’t have to stay gender neutral anymore, like his World Series balls. David’s excited about these things, but Bryan is resistant. We find out that Bryan’s worried the baby won’t love him or relate to him as much as he will to David, because Bryan’s dad didn’t understand him at all. Bryan’s four brothers and one sister were all jocks, and Bryan’s dad only talked to him to find out what was on TV and he doesn’t want to be the odd man out in his own family again.

Later, David sends Bryan a message that the football game got rained out and he’s bringing the team back to the house and Bryan gets anxious that he doesn’t know what to do with boys. But when David and the team get there, some old school arcade games are set up, and Bryan has a make your own pizza station going complete with chefs hats for all the kids. The boys love it, David is completely impressed, and tells Bryan that he’ll be a better dad than his father because he already is making the effort. Also, Bryan doesn’t seem to think their son will turn out like him at all, which is interesting. But it looks like he’s more comfortable with the idea of having a son, and he shows David this by redecorating the nursery in blue with a circus theme. He’s mounted David’s World Series balls around the room, and it really is a beautiful nursery. As David talks about life not necessarily turning out the way you thought it would, that sometimes it ends up turning out better as we see Goldie eyeing her sewing machine and the dresses she’s made for Shania with the twinkle of a new dream in her eye.

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