Spoiler alert: This recap contains significant details from Tuesday’s episode of ABC’s “The Conners.”
Darlene and her aunt, Jackie, are having very different boyfriend issues in Tuesday’s episode of “The Conners.”
In “Hold the Salt,” Darlene (Sara Gilbert) negotiates some tricky issues as she acts on her attraction to her boss, Ben (Jay R. Ferguson), while Jackie (Laurie Metcalf) is so smitten with her snobby, intellectual boyfriend that she may be blind to his leeching ways.
The episode features big-name guest appearances by Matthew Broderick and Juliette Lewis.
At Ben’s mugshot magazine, Darlene and Ben, her editor, feel a strong attraction while expressing worries about the hazards of contemporary workplace romance.
“I work for you. This would be complicated as hell,” she says.
Ben delves into a humorous bit of biz-speak to invite an encounter without violating workplace protocol.
“As your employer, I cannot have you feel uncomfortable or pressured in any way,” he explains, before offering a novel solution. “So, you’re going to have to make a move on me.”
Darlene eventually complies, using a request for a stapler to jump on his desk and into a romantic embrace. When her sister, Becky (Lecy Goranson), later suspects the two had sex, Darlene responds, “All I did was borrow his stapler and then thank him … twice – on his desk.”
However, budding romance offers a challenge, as strong-willed Darlene, who’s used to malleable partners like ex-husband David, must face off with Ben, who shows no inclination to budge.
When Darlene arrives at Ben’s apartment for a romantic dinner, the small talk is all Conner.
“You look beautiful,” Ben says. Darlene responds: “I already slept with you. So, let’s just be cool.”
The mood quickly unravels after Ben insists that a reluctant Darlene remove her shoes, she tries to substitute white wine for his preferred red and he resists her attempt to add salt as she stirs the paella.
Eventually, Darlene puts her shoes back on and leaves. It looks like this romance may be over, until Darlene gets advice from the most unlikely source, David’s hippie-dippie girlfriend (Juliette Lewis). “Giving up control can make people happier,” she explains.
Back at the office, Ben explains the challenge to Darlene. “I’m used to being the only alpha in a relationship,” he says. “Me, too,” she replies.
Ben agrees, but he wants to take a chance. “I’m going to trust you. You’re going to trust me. And we may end up ripping each other’s hearts out. I’m in.”
“Me, too,” Darlene says, as they kiss.
How can you reject such a sweet entreaty? Darlene’s in.
Meanwhile, Jackie’s already quite happy in her relationship with overeducated and unemployed Peter (Broderick). Her brother-in-law, Dan (John Goodman), never a fan of the annoyingly haughty boyfriend, becomes worried when he learns that Jackie, who’s not exactly rich, bought Peter an expensive Christmas gift: a $3,000 Vespa.
Dan agrees to do some work on the scooter, but he becomes more suspicious when Peter pays him from a joint checking account he now has with Jackie. As Peter puts it, they’re commingling their finances.
Dan questions the phrasing. “Commingling means two people mingling money. Do you have anything to mingle?”
“Not at the moment,” Peter replies, expressing surprise at the lack of job opportunities for someone with a master’s degree in medieval culture.
“You’re taking advantage of my sister-in-law,” Dan charges. Each then goes to his strength, with Peter ridiculing Dan’s intelligence and Dan threatening to pummel Peter.
Later, Dan knocks Jackie from her happy cloud, telling her she’s in denial about Peter.
“He treats me well,” says Jackie, who lives nearby with her abrasive mother but is a frequent visitor to the Conner home. “He brings me pancakes in bed.”
“I don’t think you understand how much pancakes cost,” Dan replies drily, adding that he’s only trying to fill the supportive role once held by his late wife and Jackie’s sister, Roseanne.
Initially, Jackie, offering some odd logic, is angry. “Roseanne would have come to me first and tried to break down my self-esteem until I broke up with him. And you did not show me the same respect.”
The pair then make up in a sweet, tough-love moment, with Dan saying he doesn’t want Jackie to get hurt. She accepts his explanation, but issues a chilling nuclear warning: “If you ever do something like this again, I will move in here and, so help me, I will bring Mom with me.”
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