Mrs. Fletcher S1E4: “Parents’ Weekend” Is a Masterclass in Bad Parenting

Brendan sits across from Ted at dinner looking disappointed
Image: Sarah Shatz/HBO

Part of me knew what was coming, but I really didn’t want to believe it. Sadly, Mrs. Fletcher S1E4 broke my heart with the death of Roy Rafferty (Bill Raymond). I really wanted more of Roy’s story, and I’m sad that the Raffertys’ storyline seems to be over, but Roy’s death provided some moving moments in this episode, especially from his son, George (Domenick Lombardozzi). But before we get to all that, let’s take a look at the absolute mess that is our titular character.

Eve (Kathryn Hahn) is still at it with the porn, but “Parents’ Weekend” (written by Eric Ledgin and directed by Carrie Brownstein) is much less graphic than previous episodes—not that it didn’t include pornography, but it made an interesting choice regarding which parts of scenes to use. Eve watches the “interviews” with would-be porn stars (the type where the off-camera director asks them questions about their fantasies, etc.), but we don’t see the aftermath of this line of questioning. Typically, this would be the type of thing that someone wanting their porn fix would probably fast-forward through, but Eve watches each woman discussing her various kinks and fantasies. This was a really interesting twist on Eve’s usual porn habits because it focused on women—and these women are just your average (fully clothed) housewife-looking women, not unlike Eve herself—verbalizing their desires. That is something Eve has been unable to do, so I found her fascination with the interview portion of the scenes particularly telling.

Later, we see Eve fantasizing about inserting herself into this interview situation. When she is questioned about why she wants to make an adult film, she responds, “I didn’t think I was allowed…I don’t want to be a good girl anymore.” This is one of the very few moments where we are given a glimpse into Eve’s psyche and her motivations. What I’ve been wanting from Mrs. Fletcher (but haven’t got much of so far) is a more concrete explanation for Eve’s behavior in her own words. Of course, part of the point is that she is unable to express herself and doesn’t even really know why she is doing what she is doing, but I want to see her start to really work on figuring it out. We get a hint of that here, but before we can learn more, things take a disturbing turn: Julian and Roy appear in her fantasy and that quickly snaps her back to reality.

Now on to poor Roy. Eve gets a call from the local funeral home informing her of his death and posts a notice on the board at the senior center. Eve is hit particularly hard by Roy’s death. She likely feels some sense of guilt because, while we never find out the exact cause of death, I think it’s pretty clear that Roy died of a broken heart. Some people don’t believe that is a real thing—that there must be some underlying cause—but it is very, very real. Roy may have been in the early stages of dementia, but he seemed to be an otherwise healthy man. His absolute devastation at being forced to leave the senior center he loved so much, combined with the knowledge that his mental state was only going to deteriorate further, would have stripped him of his will to live. I think Eve is very aware of this, and I think she blames herself (at least in part) for Roy’s fate.

Eve and Amanda sit listening to the eulogy at Roy's funeral
Image: Sarah Shatz/HBO

After last week’s alcohol-soaked flirtation, which ended with Julian (Owen Teague) throwing up on the side of the road, we find him waiting for Eve outside the senior center. He is there to apologize to her for his behavior, and it seems like his memory of the evening is a bit fuzzy. This comes as a relief to Eve, who is really not in the mood to deal with the Julian situation because her mind is on Roy. She is happy to leave that entire evening in the past and forget about it because Julian wasn’t the only one behaving badly that night. But just when Eve thinks that they are both on the same page in wanting to move past it, Julian asks if she has any weekend plans.

Even without the weight of Roy’s death on her shoulders at that particular moment, Eve just cannot deal with essentially being asked on a date by a 19-year-old. She seems, at least for the moment, to actually be acting like a normal adult woman with regard to the Julian situation. She is in no way ok mentally, but at least she isn’t allowing that mess to carry on any further than it already has. I can only hope that she will keep acting right and limit her messiness to someone more age-appropriate (although I’m not entirely confident she will).

Eve attends Roy’s funeral with her coworker, Amanda (Katie Kershaw), and it becomes clear that George Rafferty blames her for his father’s death. George gives a lovely eulogy about how his father was a loving and forgiving man who always accepted everyone for exactly who they were. Although the eulogy scene is brief, Lombardozzi absolutely nails it and everything that comes after. When Eve approaches the coffin and gives Roy a kiss goodbye, George absolutely loses it. His frustrations about how Eve handled the situation with Roy come bursting out and he calls her a pervert. Of course, he can’t know that she is grappling internally with the idea that she may actually be a pervert, but he can see that his words have really cut her (and I’m sure he takes some satisfaction in that).

While blaming Eve for Roy’s death isn’t really fair, I can’t say that I wouldn’t feel the same sort of anger towards her that George does (although I don’t know that I would go so far as to scream in a woman’s face at a funeral—that is not what Roy would have wanted). But when something terrible happens, there is an impulse to look for someone to blame, and Eve is a very convenient target for George. I feel for both of them. It was an impossible situation for everyone involved, and it ended in tragedy. There are no easy fixes or happy endings when it comes to dementia.

George yells at Eve in front of Roy's coffin as Amanda watches
Image: Sarah Shatz/HBO

After the funeral, Eve goes to Amanda’s house and ends up smoking pot for the first time in a very long time. Amanda asks her whether she thinks that Roy knew he was losing his mind and Eve answers that she knows that he did. Eve knew, even better than George did, exactly what was happening to him. George likely didn’t want to see it, but Eve could see his fear and hopelessness and that he was completely lost towards the end.

The two end up in Amanda’s neighbor’s hot tub, talking about the merits of casual sex. Amanda seems to be ok with hooking up with random women she meets on Tinder, although she wants something more at some point. But, to her, casual sex is better than nothing. Eve, on the other hand, can’t wrap her mind around it. One-night stands are very much outside her comfort zone, and she chooses to have no sexual relationships over casual sexual partners. She admits to Amanda that she’s been having intense sexual fantasies since Brendan left for college but that she has no intention of acting on any of it.

Amanda encourages her to go for it, but she gets a bit more than she bargained for with that statement when Eve (who is drunk yet again) tries to kiss her. Even though Amanda is pretty chill about it, Eve is instantly mortified and rushes out of the house. I don’t know whether Eve just simply cannot hold her alcohol or whether she is just so messed up in the head that the entire concept of boundaries and what is appropriate versus what is inappropriate just doesn’t compute for her, but she really needs to pull it together.

After last week’s flirtation between Margo (Jen Richards) and Curtis (Ifádansi Rashad), this week we see them out on a coffee date in the mall. I had high hopes for the two of them (I need someone on this show to be happy!), but their first date is incredibly awkward. There are some light moments where things seem to be progressing and they seem to be getting more comfortable with each other, but that instant attraction and chemistry does not seem to be there like it did when there was alcohol involved. I think—and if the previews for next week are any indication, I’m correct—that Margo isn’t fully putting herself out there with Curtis because she believes he’s not comfortable dating a trans woman. They haven’t had that talk yet, but the previews for next week’s episode indicate that they will very soon. I’m really hoping that Curtis is the good guy that I think he is and that he isn’t going to turn out to be the type that has transphobic hang-ups. I have to hope, for everyone’s sake, that Margo is making assumptions about his feelings that aren’t true and that he will prove himself to be worthy of her affection because they are really cute together and I like her a lot and I want her to be happy. Please, Mrs. Fletcher, let someone be happy!

Margo and Curtis sit across from each other having coffee
Image: Sarah Shatz/HBO

Brendan (Jackson White) and his roommate Zach (Cameron Boyce) are preparing for Parents’ Weekend, which for Zach means cleaning their disgusting dorm room and for Brendan means sitting around not helping and talking up his father. This scene shows us that Zach, who seemed to be the only friend Brendan has, is getting pretty tired of him—and who can blame him? Brendan is kind of the nightmare roommate. But without Zach, Brendan has literally no one (except maybe Chloe), and that’s a very bad position to find oneself in.

There’s another little moment here where we see that Brendan has absolutely no clue when it comes to cultural sensitivity. Zach asks if he can hide Brendan’s “Japanese fuck-me doll,” which he finds racist, to which Brendan replies, “It can’t be racist because I love her.” Not only is it clear that Brendan has no idea of why someone might find his doll offensive, he goes even further and makes it all into a joke. The idea that a white person can’t be racist if they have a non-white partner or friend is a commonly held (and completely inaccurate) belief, and Brendan’s continued displays of insensitivity show us that he finds the entire conversation around race and racism to be laughable.

It’s becoming pretty obvious where Brendan gets his nastier personality traits from when his father, Ted (Josh Hamilton), arrives for Parents’ Weekend. Brendan had been expecting (and was led to believe by Ted) that he was going to have his full attention for some father-son bonding time. However, Ted conveniently neglected to mention that his wife, Bethany (Christine Evangelista), and Brendan’s little brother, Johnathan (John James Cronin), would be coming with him. Brendan is devastated to see them, and I really can’t blame him for being upset in this situation. The fact that his brother’s autism will not allow them to do certain activities that Brendan wanted to do with his father is part of it, but it’s not the root cause of Brendan’s frustration. The heart of the matter is that he was supposed to, for once, have his father’s full attention. This was supposed to be about him, and with his stepmother and brother there, he is basically the fourth wheel at his own Parents’ Weekend.

There is no real reason why Ted could not have left Bethany and Johnathan at home. I’m sure it would be easier, given the amount of care that Johnathan needs, for him to have both parents home for the weekend, but it’s not absolutely essential. Ted actively made the choice to bring them knowing full well that Brendan was expecting bonding time with just him. Ted also knew that bringing Johnathan would severely limit the activities he would be able to do. For example, Ted can’t even take Brendan out to the traditional Parents’ Weekend dinner, which is a staple of the college Parents’ Weekend experience (and a welcome treat after subsisting on cafeteria food, pizza, and ramen). But, since Johnathan does not do well in restaurants, they brought burritos to eat in Brendan’s dorm room. Brendan wants to go to a football game with his dad, but that’s off the table, too.

The whole thing is just really sad, and as much as I dislike Brendan as a person, I can’t help but feel sorry for him here. To his credit, he actually deals with the situation well. He doesn’t express any of his anger or disappointment; he just rolls with it and puts on a happy face. He tries (and fails) to connect with his brother, but he doesn’t outwardly express any frustration. This is maybe the only time in Mrs. Fletcher thus far where we have seen Brendan behave maturely. He may be a jerk, but he’s not so far gone that he doesn’t understand that the situation with his brother is a complicated one and that it isn’t right to take it out on an innocent party.

Part of the reason why Brendan is such a jerk is that Ted is an absentee father, and the rare times when he is actually around, he’s selfish and inconsiderate (and also kind of a jerk). This is definitely one of those “apple not falling far from the tree” situations. Later, when we see the two of them actually getting some alone time, they use it to attend an art exhibition and make fun of the feminist sentiments being expressed in the work. To be fair, the exhibition is a fairly sophomoric attempt at exploring the theme, but it was likely made by actual sophomores, so I can forgive it. That is no excuse for a grown man like Ted to mock the work and encourage his impressionable son to do the same.

Brendan, Bethany, Johnathan, and Ted stand in a group watching an a cappella performance
Image: Sarah Shatz/HBO

After Johnathan has a public incident (triggered by an impromptu performance by the BSU a cappella group), Brendan finally gets his dinner out with his dad. It’s essentially Ted’s way of placating him because they will be leaving early. Ted admits that they shouldn’t have brought Johnathan but places the blame on Bethany, who he says is the one who pushed for it. But before he can continue shifting blame, Brendan actually gets up the courage to ask the question that has likely been on his mind for years: “Why is he your favorite?” He finally opens up to his father about his feelings, even tearing up a bit as he tells him he’s upset about how the weekend turned out.

Ted apologizes, but his explanation for the difference between his relationships with his sons actually does more harm than good. He tells Brendan that he doesn’t have needs like Johnathan does, that he doesn’t need to worry about him the same way, because he’s good as he is. While Ted means this in a positive way—and probably fully believes it—it is simply not true. While Brendan obviously does not have the same type of needs and issues as Johnathan, that doesn’t mean that he doesn’t have any needs or issues. At this point in his life, Brendan has more needs and issues than he’s ever had, and Ted should be very worried about him because he is very much not good.

You can see it all over Brendan’s face: he knows he’s not good, but there’s no way he can tell his father that he’s not ok. He has to maintain the façade that he’s the son who Ted doesn’t need to worry about because that’s what his role is; that is the box Ted has put him in because Ted needs him to be there. He doesn’t have the bandwidth to deal with Brendan needing him on top of Johnathan needing him, and as usual, Johnathan comes first. I don’t fault Ted for expending so much energy taking care of Johnathan, but I do fault him for refusing to make room for Brendan’s needs as well. At the end of the day, he has two sons, and he is only being a father to one of them. If Brendan were to be honest about what was really going on in his life, in all likelihood it would make Ted more distant.

I have to wonder whether Brendan’s disastrous Parents’ Weekend experience made him think at all about his mother and how differently things would have gone if Eve had come instead of Ted. There is no real indication that he is thinking about this, but I feel like he has to be at least a little bit. Even after the nasty voicemail she left him, I would hope that Brendan would have just a bit more appreciation for Eve after experiencing his father’s neglect. Eve would have taken him to dinner. Eve would have gone to the football game. Eve would have taken him anywhere, bought him anything, and done anything he wanted all weekend. Of course, he would probably have acted aloof and felt smothered the whole time, but after the experience with Ted, I wonder if his attitude towards Eve’s parenting style has shifted at all. For both of their sakes, I hope that it has.

As usual, just as I start feeling sorry for Brendan, Mrs. Fletcher makes me hate him again. Johnathan’s scarf “Stripey,” which he uses as a calming mechanism, has gone missing, and they are forced to leave without it. Now, I absolutely 100% thought that Brendan took it on purpose, and I was happy to discover that that was not the case; it was left on the floor in the bathroom. However, because Brendan is Brendan, he just can’t do the right thing and let them know he found it. He just throws it straight in the trash. Perhaps I gave him too much credit for maturity earlier because here we see that he is fully capable of taking his feelings about Ted out on Johnathan. It’s a cruel thing to do, and he knows it, but he does it anyway out of spite. Oh, Brendan. Will you ever stop being the worst?

Only time will tell. Join me next week for a look at the fifth episode of Mrs. Fletcher, “Invisible Fence.”

Written by Alison Morretta

In addition to her position as Senior Editor and Writer for TVObs, Ali is a freelance editorial consultant and author of numerous nonfiction reference books for middle school and high school students. In her spare time, she enjoys obsessing over various television shows, especially Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul. When not overanalyzing TV shows, she is wrangling her hyperactive Corgi, who is inarguably the cutest dog that has ever existed.

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