Executive Producers: Chuck Lorre, Eddie Gorodetsky and Nick Bakay
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Sometimes, change can happen in an instant. More often, it’s a process.
It’s big efforts and small successes, taking an occasional step back for every two steps forward — as viewers of CBS freshman series Mom see with Bonnie and Christy Plunkett (Allison Janney and Anna Faris). Mother and daughter, respectively, they are both struggling with recovery from alcoholism and in Bonnie’s case, drug abuse as well.
In the season’s ninth episode, “Zombies and Cobb Salad,” change looks at first to be impossible for Bonnie, who reveals to Christy and others at an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting that she has lost her job.
Over a post-meeting Cobb salad with Christy and AA friends Marjorie (Mimi Kennedy) and Regina (Octavia Spencer), Bonnie claims she’s fine.
“You know what ‘fine’ means, don’t you?” counters a disbelieving Marjorie. “Frustrated-insecure-neurotic-emotional. You have to get honest: Humble-open-non-judgmental-egoless-spiritual-trusting.”
Bonnie will have none of it.
Until, that is, she loses her apartment because she can’t make rent, goes out for a night of drinking – throwing away 2 years of sobriety – and ends up at Christy’s apartment to move in with her till she finds a new job.
The next morning, Bonnie joins her daughter and two grandchildren for breakfast, stumbling to the table, hair mussed and standing high atop her head.
“Why do you look like a zombie?” grandson Roscoe (Blake Garrett Rosenthal) asks.
“Because I’m dead inside,” Bonnie answers.
Later that day, when she tells Christy she’s sorry, it’s Christy’s turn to have none of it, having heard Bonnie’s apologies all her life.
“This apology is different,” Bonnie insists in desperation. “I really mean it this time. I never want to feel like this again. Whatever it takes, I’m so ready.”
Which is good, because Christy, about to leave for work, has invited Marjorie and Regina over to help. “It’s time to heal, Bonnie,” Marjorie states upon their arrival. “Health-energy-abstinence-love.”
Holding an informal AA meeting in the living room, Marjorie notes that she is thirty-two years sober, and got that way after her hippie friends of the ’70s ultimately joined the establishment, while heroin-using Marjorie found herself a homeless bag lady.
“You’ve got my attention,” Bonnie says. “Thirty-two years later, I am so grateful to be sober,” Marjorie replies.
At a regular meeting, Bonnie tells Christy, “I’m ready to do the program for real now, and not just for myself. I never want to let you down again.”
This being a sitcom, perhaps a heartwarming mother-daughter hug might be in order here. But instead, Christy, full of pent-up anger, bursts out, “I am so pissed off at you! How many times do I have to clean up your frickin’ mess? You want to be my mother? Then stop apologizing and step up.”
And at episode’s end, back at home, she asks her mother, “How do I forgive a woman who’s disappointed me again and again?”
As the end credits roll, the customary commentary card by executive producer Chuck Lorre appears. But instead of his usual jam-packed riffs on the episode topic, the message here is short and simple: “I got nothing.”
And that’s likely because the episode so beautifully depicts the moment when change becomes inevitable, when a woman realizes her old ways simply don’t serve her anymore, and it’s time to get real and get rolling, moving on to a new life.
Its mixture of comedy and drama, seriousness and slapstick (there’s a recurring tackling theme in the episode) mirrors life away from the soundstage.
As does another point: Forgiveness, like change, doesn’t come easily. But if there’s communication, patience and yes, the “health-energy-abstinence-love” of healing, it can occur.
Lorre told reporters at last summer’s Television Critics Association press tour that with this show, he wanted to get right what he couldn’t finish with previous series Grace Under Fire and Cybill, due to well-known conflicts with his stars: “to tell a story about a woman starting her life over again.”
“This is a story that's very meaningful to me,” Lorre shared. “It's about starting your life over again, repairing the damage that's been done."
The “Zombies and Cobb Salad” episode handily accomplishes that goal, and sets the scene for further transformation to come, for both mother and daughter.
For its insightful, inspiring reflections of real life, performed by whip-sharp cast, Mom is a recipient of a 2014 Television Academy Honor award.
— Libby Slate, Special to TelevisionAcademy.com
Mom currently airs Monday nights on CBS — check your local listings. Some full episodes are currently available to watch on demand via many local cable providers and free here at CBS.com. The entire first season is also available to watch here via iTunes and Amazon Prime video.