Married with Children... All Things Episodic


0511  -  "And Baby Makes Money"

"If it's you, Al, I love you." (Peg)
"If it's me, Peg, I don't even know you..." (Al)

I get the feeling this episode is a parody of something, but it escapes
me for the moment exactly what it is. It's lost in enjoyment, for this
is easily the best fifth season episode so far and probably one of the
best of the whole series. From start to finish it is fluid, balanced and
makes its point(s) with a careful subtlety that, for me, captures why
this season is one of my favourites; balanced between the overt clowning
of later seasons and the razor-sharp biting sarcasm of the earlier ones.
The opening scene at the Bundy house, where Al is practicing his tears
for the funeral and the kids are scratching the relative out of the
family album, is a clever nod towards the decay of the family in the
present day, reducing the dead person to just a money pot over whom the
relatives can squabble. Even the ceremonial reading of the will is
reduced to a series of backbiting insults and complaints about who
failed and who succeeded. As the title makes clear, the possibility of 
a child isn't the important thing any more. When the men jump on their
wives at the will scene, again one of MWC's favourite themes - how
desperate ordinary people can get for money - rises back to the surface.
Later, moving back to Jeopardy Lane, we get to a more light-humoured
part of the episode. As with Earth Angel, when Peg has an opportunity,
she is ruthless about squeezing Al to the limit (puns intended). Al of
course can deliver, but the punishing regime gradually wears him down
until, finally, Kelly has to bring him in in a wheelchair, shrivelled
and barely able to speak. At the end, however, the tables are turned and
Al wins a kind of pyrrhic victory, with Peg utterly terrified and him
sitting, worn out but triumphant, on the couch. It's impossible not to
smile at the way this episode firmly states its case; big chance, much
trauma, many losses but a small spiritual victory at the end. It's so
MWC that it's perfect.

"What if they do have another baby? I mean, who will that be to me?"
"A tutor?" (Bud)

The quality of this episode is undoubted, and it forces superb
performances from Ed O'Neill and Katey Sagal. The former in particular
does a superb job of portraying his emaciated self, including huge
clothes and slow movements, mumbling quietly until given a shot of
stimulants. Noticeably, what truly revitalises him is getting his own
back on Peg. Katey Sagal also enjoys herself, happily controlling Al
with little tidbits ("my temperature's up"...) and all the while knowing
it's totally ineffective from his point of view. Another subtle echo of
Earth Angel, I think, where Peg is delighted with this chance that others 
(read: Marcy) consider so menial. The unsatisfied, unsatiated Peg who has 
come to find alternatives reaches its zenith in 'Til Death do Us Part - 
here, at least, she's still using Al for satisfaction. The children are 
pretty much in the background, where Marcy gets another of what my friend 
calls "those speeches" - well, the first episode he ever saw was Banking 
on Marcy, so I can't blame him. This one actually fits the situation, and 
since Marcy's currently single, I'm not quite so convinced by it. Either 
it should have been stronger, because she's single and has been getting 
less recently, or else it should have been weak and feeble for the same 
reason. It didn't come across as quite so relevant, somehow. On the other 
hand, this is the only 'dark spot' in an episode which shines from start to
finish, is definitely a classic, and can be watched over and over without 
losing any of its hilarity.

Rating : 10.

By Grail


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