After a few months of worrying that they wouldn't be able to work out contracts and schedules, Johnny Galecki finally made his not-so-triumphant return to "Roseanne" as Darlene's husband, David. The "Big Bang Theory" star was unkempt, unpolished and almost unrecognizable from his hit show, but he was absolutely the same David.
When this new season kicked off, Darlene (Sara Gilbert) had just moved back in with Roseanne (Roseanne Barr) and Dan (John Goodman) with her two kids, living as a single mother struggling to get by. That left a huge question: What happened between her and David? For six seasons, he was the sensitive young man who spent more time broken up with Darlene than together with her. It turns out that was just a predictor of where their adult lives would take them.
During its initial run, the one thing the Conner family and viewers could count on was that this family would always stay together. Roseanne and Dan may fight but they would always be together. Frankly, that message isn't remotely realistic in today's age where more than half of marriages end in divorce. And so, the next generation of Conners is exploring these more diverse marriages.
Becky's marriage ended in the tragic death of her husband (mirroring the real-world death of the actor who portrayed him) and D.J.'s wife is still overseas in the military. The most logical characters to face divorce are Darlene and David, considering how contentious their relationship was from the beginning. But in doing so, this episode explores all the challenges divorced couples face, and all the mistakes they find it so easy to make.
COMMITTING TO YOUR KIDS
No matter what happens in a relationship, if there are kids then there are innocents involved. Even if you can't commit to one another anymore, you should always commit to your kids. You made them, you owe them at least that, even when they don't make it easy, like Harris -- who is so much like her mother.
"This young lady just smashed the lids on all these cakes in the bakery section," a grocery store clerk said, confronting the family.
"Did you do that?" Roseanne asked Harris.
"No," Harris said.
"Security camera caught you," the clerk responded.
"Well then say that first." (a beat) "Yes."
Roseanne didn't understand why Harris would act out because David was coming for her birthday party. "If he actually shows up," Darlene explained. "He only showed up like three times in Chicago and the anxiety of whether he's gonna be here or not really messes with her head." Thanks to Harris, though, the Conners wound up with way too many cakes, leading to that awesome cake-eating contest ABC has been shoving down our throats in promos for months.
Dan has a very clear vision of how family works. You have kids. You have responsibilities. You face them. David didn't do that, so as far as Dan is concerned, he's not welcome in the Conner household.
"He can walk in here. He just won't be able to walk out."
"You can't keep him from seeing his kids, Dan. He's their father," Roseanne countered.
"Well, if he acted like it he'd be welcome here. There is no reason to ever leave your family. You may think about it. You may dream about it. You may gas up your bike and make sandwiches, but you don't ever do it."
"So that's what you did that day. I knew there was no drywall convention!"
David showed up at Darlene's window (because he's smartly still afraid of Dan) and told her he was ready to commit to the kids, but that he wanted a divorce so that he could merge his spiritual path with his new girlfriend, Blue.
Unfortunately, old habits and old desires crept up and the pair wound up spending the night together. Foolishly, just as David thought that Blue could make him a better father, both he and Darlene mistakenly thought that one night of passion together and a few good conversations could wipe away decades of fighting and abandonment. And the very next day, it crept right back up.
"She's my daughter. I'm coming to her party no matter what," David said.
"David, it's really cute when you assert yourself but let me just prepare my dad for this."
"Cute? Come on, don't. Why do you always have to belittle me like that. I'm a grown man."
"Okay, God, don't be so sensitive."
"Don't tell me what not to be."
"Fine. Then do be less sensitive."
"How about this? You be less controlling and I'll be less sensitive."
"You know, what, let's not do this. I'm sorry."
"It's okay. You haven't been around me. I'm a different person now. Other than your father, I'm not so easily intimidated. Do you know what they called me in Guatemala? I don't either 'cause it was in Spanish, but they said it with incredible respect."
Even then, they failed to see it, but even as they so easily could fall back into their good habits, the bad ones were lurking and waiting to emerge. Not to mention, poor Blue. She was just dismissed so quickly.
HONESTY STILL MATTERS
Of course, the biggest mistake that many couples make is a lack of honesty from one or both partners. "When I left you and the kids I rationalized that it was okay because I was helping people. The truth is I left because my brother died and I was overwhelmed with all the responsibility and I just ran. And once I was out there I was ashamed," David told Darlene before they tried to solve all their problems with sex.
Only that wasn't exactly the truth. The truth is he was trying to gloss over the real problems, without thinking about the real consequences of ignoring them. It finally came out when Roseanne confronted Darlene about giving David another chance.
"You said he was a good person. You said I should give him another chance," Darlene said.
"Yeah, I meant as a father. Not as a husband. You guys are a disaster as a couple. It's like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and David," Roseanne countered.
"He's different now. He's totally self-aware, he realized the only reason he left the first time around was because he couldn't handle the pressures of fatherhood."
"That's not why he left. He left because you guys were fighting all the time and that's what he couldn't handle."
"What? You don't know that."
"I do know. He told me."
"Look, I think I know a little bit more about this than you do."
"Okay, fine. You're gonna do what you're gonna do. You know, I'm just trying to help you have a happy life, you know, so you don't get so Blue."
With that final word, Roseanne let Darlene know that she knew exactly what was going on, even if Darlene didn't want to face it.
"Mom's trying to blow up me and David. She's telling me there's no way our relationship can work," Darlene told Becky later.
"Look, I love David. But you guys have been going at this for 20 years. It's like that ham radio Dad tinkers with in the garage. If it was gonna work, it would have worked by now."
"Dad just got that radio working. He's got a friend in Duluth that's 102."
"Fine, fine, then just keep tinkering Darlene."
"Oh so now I'm supposed to take advice from you, Becky?"
"No. Take advice from you. Position feel thyself."
"None of those words are right. And I don't know what you're talking about."
"You told me I never moved on after Mark died. End the misery. Grieve and get on with your life. Your words."
"David didn't die."
"Yeah, but your marriage did."
And that's what Darlene and David were unable to get past. The old habits crept up and they were able to fantasize the life they both imagined they could share together. But that was never more than a fantasy. The truth is that they just don't work together. And in order to have a healthy relationship post-marriage, for themselves but more importantly for their kids, it's time to accept that.
"Truth is, we're delusional if we think we can make each other happy. We're gonna fight, you're gonna run and we're gonna break the kids hearts," Darlene told David.
"We talked. We know what went wrong. We belong together. You're the first person that I loved and I still love you," he said, still trying to believe that it could work.
"I love you too, and if it was just us, I swear I would keep doing this over and over again even if it never worked. But it's not just us."
While those old habits and tendencies have a nasty habit of creeping up and messing things up, it's important to set clear boundaries. Accepting that the relationship is done is only the first step. It's important to properly define the new relationship. That's what Dan was preaching from the beginning. David is no longer Darlene's husband, but he is still a father to those kids.
"Hello David," Dan said, confronting him at the front door on the day of Harris' party.
"Hey Dad. Mr. Conner. Sir. Hi. How are you doing?"
"I've been better. I hear you're moving back to Lanford."
"Yeah, I got a place. I'll be back permanently in two weeks."
"Great. Then that's when you'll see the kids. Questions? Comments?"
"You always were a smart boy."
Sure, it sounds harsh, but this is Dan protecting Harris and Mark. David has shirked his kids and run from his responsibilities at every chance. If he's going to do better, then it's time to prove it. Move into that house and prove he's going to be there for his kids and he'll be invited back into the house to be there for his kids. It's a tough rule, but a clear boundary.
"You're gonna do what you came her to do. Be a great father. You can do that, right?" Darlene asked him. David promised her and Roseanne he would do the right thing. "You better, because if you don't, there's not gonna be anybody left in this house to be on your side," Roseanne told him. "I know you're a quality person, David. I want you to prove me right."
We really hope David does move into that house for his kids' sake, but his "Big Bang" commitments mean Galecki may not be available again for "Roseanne." For the writers, it might be easier to have him run away again. But think of the kids!
David's return dominated the episode, but it wasn't the only one. Roseanne and Jackie's (Laurie Metcalf) mother Beverly (Estelle Parsons) also made her triumphant return to the series. At 90 years old, Parsons was just as feisty as ever, and in fact it was Beverly's feistiness that spurred her return in one of the night's funniest throughlines.
"Apparently at my age I am not supposed to enjoy a healthy sex life ... with multiple partners in multiple parts of the facility," Bev told her daughters, explaining why she was out of the nursing home
"Oh my God!" Jackie exclaimed.
"What? I had sex. Is that so hard to imagine?"
"Not any more. It's hard to stop imagining."
Beverly wasn't being entirely truthful, though.
"I can't go back to the home. I'm gonna have to stay here with you girls."
"What are you talking about, Mom? You said you could go back if you apologize," Roseanne said.
"Actually, that's not the whole truth. They said that I am a danger to others. I gave a couple of the men a little gonorrhea."
It was played for laughs, but STDs are a serious problem in many nursing homes and it's because these care facilities aren't properly managing the sex lives of their patients. These men and women are adults, so they should have the right to be sexually active if there are no medical reasons stopping it, and yet it's either frowned upon or they don't have adequate access to protection.
During its original run, "Roseanne" was one of the first shows to directly address teen sexuality. It looks like they're going the opposite direction now. And at the end of the episode, Bev was still in Roseanne's house, setting the series up to continue exploring the challenges many people face with caring for their aging parents.
OTHER TOPICAL LAUGHS
"Man, we are so lucky that ShopMore lets us scan our own groceries. Now we can shop without the hassles of anybody helping us at all," Roseanne said.
"Oh my God, you're stealing that," Darlene said after watching Roseanne bag an item without scanning it.
"No. They're making me work as a checkout lady and my starting salary is bacon."
"Give me one reason I should let you in," Darlene said as David hung from her window.
"'Cause I'm gonna fall. Please, I'm vegan now. I have no upper arm strength."
"He went to pick up some pain pills for my knee," Roseanne said, telling Darlene and Becky where Dan was.
"When's that situation gonna change?" Becky asked her.
"As soon as one of you girls marries an orthopedic surgeon. Or a drug dealer. I know where the smart money is." She said this last while grabbing and pinching Becky's cheeks.
"If you're so happy, why are you drinking before the date?" Darlene asked Becky.
"Because I have a drinking problem."
"Do you have enough guilt to buy me weed?" Harris asked David.