One Day at a Time: Season 4 Episode 3 (Boundaries)

As mentioned in the prior episode's review, One Day at a Time has managed to bounce between simplicity and complexity in the show's content and delivery.  This week's entry with "Boundaries" seemed firmly entrenched in the complex camp with little deviation.  The premise?  Penelope (Justina Machado) is dealing with the fallout of her son Alex (Marcel Ruiz) accidentally walks in on her, well, relieving stress.  All is comically divulged in Penelope's veteran support group, quipped with the greatest humor delivered in the episode as the other ladies buzzed in (no pun intended). 

Where the episode faltered was in its intended target for addressing the matter in the Alvarez/Riera household.  If only the writers would have listened to Alex early on when he said "Can we just forget it!?"  Although topical and something discussed when rearing teenagers (ODAAT's central focus), this episode failed to peak as there were too many elements fighting each other.  And of course the audience knew where everyone stood.  Schneider thought the situation was amusing and inserted himself (again pun not intended).  Lydia (Rita Moreno) thinks its an abomination and holds old fashion values.  Feminist/lesbian Elena (Isabella Gomez) finds the topic liberating and enjoys not only educating the household, but needling Lydia with a cringeworthy topic.  Gomez delivered some of her best material in this episode as the granddaughter/grandmother dynamic between Elena and Lydia is oddly adversarial and the two are continually jousting barbs.

The setup was indeed a comic goldmine, but stereotyping perhaps diminished the opportunities.  And not so much with old fashioned Lydia, who comically asked her daughter if she marries her new boyfriend, should she expect to sit with the blenders and other household appliances at the wedding.  But rather the blatant stereotyping with Latinx and white people.  Penelope's delivery of what it means to be Cuban often overdoes the stereotyping, and stating boundaries are for white people.  Umm, Cuban people have boundaries.  Every human being and family has them.  Penelope perhaps was shadowing the concept of privacy, which again any group has.  The disappointing part of the statements in this episode is the family is continually working to stand against Cuban typecasting, and rightfully so. 

With how hard they have had to work to depict positive examples for others, it is derisive to make statements like "Next thing, we are eating lunchables in separate rooms and grandmama is going to a home."  ODAAT is a topical masterpiece managing to deliver humor with doses of realism, and it seems this episode perhaps didn't click as well as it needed more simplicity.  A great example of this simplicity/awkwardness needed for the episode was Modern Family's Season 2, Episode 13 "Caught in the Act."  The principles are caught in a compromising position and the awkwardness that ensued as the parents attempted to talk to the kids about the matter.  This was the intended direction for ODAAT between Alex and Penelope, but there was too much going on at once.

Was the episode about awkwardness between Alex and Penelope?  Or about Lydia and Penelope arguing over the senior family member's objections for why her daughter doesn't have a man?  Or was it simply about masturbation?  There were too many plots and directions going at once.  "Boundaries" is certainly not a terrible episode, but rather muddled.  When the writers manage to balance simplicity and complexity in episodes, they work.  Perhaps next time the direction will be executed with more precision, but not all was awkward and lost in the episode.  A beloved cast member returns in the closing moments!

Grade: B-

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