Weeds – “Little Boats”

“Little Boats”

August 11th, 2008

There have been many episodes of Weeds more eventful than Monday night’s ninth episode of the show’s fourth season; in a show that in later seasons has really delved into the more sensational elements of Nancy Botwin’s career choice, episodes have featured action and comedy that tends to feel like something out of a movie versus something out of, well, “reality,” as trite as that may seem.

So it is with pleasure that I say that “Little Boats” may be my favourite episode of the season so far primarily because it owes all of its drama to character, to a very human reaction from the show’s central character as it pertains to her family as opposed to her employers. This is the side of Weeds that we have, perhaps, lost in recent years: this was a show about a family first and foremost in the beginning, and this is one of the strongest examples of that in the past few seasons.

Faced with the behaviour of the people of both her own children and her extended family, and disconnected from Esteban, Nancy turns into someone who isn’t defined by drug trafficking or anything else – she’s just another Mother struggling to care for those she loves. And the result is definitely one of the season’s strongest episodes.

There was a fair deal of outrage in some spots on the internet after Conrad and Heylia were dumped from the show, but it’s given us maybe the best part of the 4th Season. Shane and Silas took a definite backseat during the third season as their storylines seemed too far removed from Nancy’s central conflict. If they were, it felt contrived: Silas becoming a dealer and finding a kooky weed pal in Mary-Kate Olsen seemed like a bit of a cheat, and Shane’s bout with insanity seemed like a cheap ploy to include the character in something other than the tangential investigation into the Majestic fundamentalism.

Here, though, these are storylines that are close to home, or in this instance too close to home. Shane and Silas are following paths that feel like they belong to themselves, that they are heading in directions that are outside of Nancy’s control or outside of her influence. While she is right to identify that both certainly have their origins within her own influence on their lives, they are both at a point where that influence is sending them in directions that don’t happen to make them easy to deal with for Nancy. As they have grown older, they have realized more and more that her moral objections bear less weight when you consider her own actions, but there is something very humanizing about the extremely well-staged speeches she gives to her two sons about their recent actions.

Silas’ situation isn’t quite as Oedipal as Nancy makes it out to be, and especially compared to Shane’s, and so it feels a bit contradictory to be including Silas so heavily in her campaign to clean up her family. Yes, there is no question that there is something sketchy about his relationship with Mrs. Rad, and Mary-Louise Parker absolutely destroyed the scene in which she tears apart both her son and Lisa. We haven’t gotten to see much badass Nancy as of late, but her threat of cougaring Rad when he turns 17 was just delightful to watch.

Shane’s situation is different because it is so clear cut in its oedpial desire, and Shane is more mortified by the thought of his mother knowing than he is about any sort of stifled rebellion. However, Shane’s youth shines through in the fact that, afterwards, he just goes back to embracing his new party badass persona; he went from the geek in the limo to the badass in the limo who has his own groupies and surely an important future as a feared figure in the school. Just as his hormones couldn’t stop even as his mind realized there was something wrong about his choice of bathroom material, his ascension of the social circuit is not something that he can let his mother take away from him.

But the same can’t be said for Silas, whose relatively immaturity causes his newfound relationship with Lisa to crash to the ground. While Shane is able to simply push his mother’s words to the back of his mind and refocus, Silas is at a point where it’s rebellion or bust; although he isn’t quite the 16 year old who got Megan pregnant (Which is the last time I remember Nancy and her sons in such a personal storyline), and he is certainly enterprising with his grow operation, he is also still carrying this romanticized teenage rebellion flag into battle. He tells Lisa to move in together without realizing that this is only proving his mother’s point, something that even Nancy doesn’t seem happy about.

And Nancy is happy about very little in this episode: while this is about her sons, it is also her story of constantly missing out on dates with Esteban while dealing with crisis after crisis. None of this has to do with her profession, but with her as a person: as someone who has grown to depend on Esteban for fun, as someone who has to deal with Celia’s madness, and as someone who has two sons who she still wants to look out for. She hasn’t had to be their parent much as of late, let’s be honest: she passed Shane’s big Masturbation lesson off to Andy to begin with (Even trying to pass this one off on him), and even since Silas transitioned to employee she hasn’t been playing that type of role with him.

So it’s nice to get an episode where she is mothering, to varying effect: she solves Shane’s problem with a flush of the toilet on one level, but Shane is obviously still not quite adjusted even if he’s gaining a strong reputation. With Silas, though, her mothering is too thick: I’m not suggesting she should have condoned his behaviour, but she waltzed into that cheese shop and attacked his personal and his business skills in a way that felt more overbearing than protective. It could just be that she’s forgotten how to Mother, or never quite found her footing on parenting older teenagers, but her reaction to Silas’ sad return to the house is one that seems to return us to a narrative of a woman struggling to deal with her life…and not just because of drive-bys or mysterious tunnels.

And that’s the Weeds that I fell in love with in the beginning. And that she finds her solace in a light-up boat lantern that allows her to stay at home while still having someone to lean on; that the someone is the drug-supported mayor of Tijuana was irrelevant.

Cultural Observations

  • I don’t mean to ignore Andy and Doug’s B-Story, but I do have to commend them for the dynamic: using Andy as the humorous leader and Doug as his angry, profanity spewing nutjob is perfect, and while I don’t particular care if Doug finds his Mermaid I do think that this has been a solid little storyline.
  • I thought that Celia’s Cocaine addiction was a little less strong, as it really didn’t go anywhere compared to last week. It was one more blip in Nancy’s day, and I do have to wonder whether we can hold Nancy responsible for not paying closer attention to Celia after dropping her off (Shouldn’t she of been the one to help the intervention?) It just seems like it’s all just for comedy, which seemed in stark contrast to the rest of the episode.

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