Andy Botwin and Weeds — The Great (and Careful) Work Begins

Andy Botwin, leaning his chin against his right hand

We know the basic premise of Jenji Kohan’s Weeds, right? Widowed suburban mom makes ends meet by selling pot, becomes danger junkie, shenanigans ensue. The show is of course about Nancy Botwin (Mary Louise Parker), the mom in question. I, however, always seem to go for the character actor sidekick of a show like this than I do the headliner. In the case of Weeds, that’s Nancy’s late husband’s ne’er-do-well brother Andy. And for me, Andy Botwin was the heart of the whole thing. Lord knows Andy’s no saint. He’ll lie, cheat and steal with the best of them, sleep with anything that moves, and has indulged in so many substances that a blood transfusion from him would probably get you high. And yet…there’s something pure about Andy Botwin. For all his vices, Andy Botwin is a good guy with a good heart.

Typically, if I’m rewatching Weeds, it’s because I recently rewatched Angels In America, and I’m not done vibing with Justin Kirk. If you haven’t seen the HBO movie version of Tony Kushner’s Angels In America, you really should do. Suffice it to say for the moment that Justin Kirk plays Prior Walter in that, he’s fantastic, the whole thing is fantastic, and what in the Pacino-Thompson-Streep-Wright (not to mention Mary Louise Parker herself) are you waiting for? I digress, but it’s on HBO Max waiting for you. You will thank me. Anyway.

Justin Kirk is one of those guys who walks that weird line between leading man and character actor. He’s handsome enough to be a leading man, but quirky enough that I think his real milieu is that small Venn diagram of handsome-guy-character actors. My relationship with him began when I saw him in the 1995 Broadway run of Terrence McNally’s Love! Valor! Compassion! He reprised his role as Bobby in the movie version, and it delighted me no end to see him star in something as high profile as Angels In America.

Andy looking casual and a little disheveled

Andy and Religion

When Andy Botwin first shows up on the show, it’s because his brother Judah, Nancy’s husband, has died of a sudden heart attack. For a long time, he’s the endearing and goofy comic relief. The first round of Andy-antics involve him trying to get into rabbinical school in order to get out of the National Guard trouble he got himself into a few years back. He signed up to impress a girl, but now they want to actually deploy him somewhere, and he can get out of it if he proves a religious calling of the academic kind. The Botwin side of the family is Jewish, and Andy is totally prepared to tap into that if that will keep him out of the Middle East. No idea where Justin Kirk leans faith-wise in real life—he played a convincing WASP in Angels in America and he plays a convincing Jew in Weeds, and in any case, he’s an actor who does his homework, so it makes no nevermind to me in any case.

Andy, wearing a yarmulke, sits on a bench next to Yael, who is taking sips from a flask

Despite a real aptitude for the Jew thing and a moment or two of real spiritual awakening (though he was wicked high at the time, so I’m not sure how much it counts), Andy bails on rabbi school as soon as another option to keep him out of the military presents itself. Early days Andy and follow-through…not so much.

Andy’s adventures with religion are a running theme throughout the show. He has a brief stint as a modern day Moses, sneaking illegal immigrants across the border from Mexico. They call him El Andy, and they love him. El Andy really rides this new high of being the shepherd of his flock, even if they don’t understand each other too well because Andy doesn’t speak Spanish. In Season 6, in an off-the-grid trailer park, he’s briefly employed as Pastor Andy (he did study the Bible, after all, and like I said—convincing WASP), and might have had a decent thing administering to believers there. That doesn’t last long, though, thanks to Nancy’s libido and lack of discretion.

Season 8 has Andy hooking up all domestic-like with Nancy’s sister Jill (Jennifer Jason Leigh), which I’ll get to later. Andy decides that he needs to step it up to support his family. He befriends their neighbour, Rabbi David Bloom (David Julian Hirsh). Rabbi Dave gets him a job teaching boys at the local yeshiva, and Andy rocks at it. All that time in rabbinical school, whatever his original motives for going, actually paid off. He’s momentarily rattled when he learns that the shiksa that Rabbi Dave has been feeling guilty for sleeping with is Nancy, but he’s able to shake it off enough to be able to counsel Dave with some pretty solid advice, both Talmudic and fraternal. Rabbi Dave says that it’s the place of the Jew to question, and that’s Andy all over, especially in these later seasons. He spends all this time asking why, and making guesses, and taking swings, hoping that he’ll hit the right thing.

The series and the family eventually come full circle back to California. Andy is trying to recapture his youth in the form of his old girlfriend from rabbinical school. She doesn’t remember him at all, but was it really about her anyway? Probably not. Still, that’s enough to make him answer his “why” with a great big resounding because there is no God rant, delivered loudly to no one in particular from the top of the yeshiva building.

Andy and Family

Part of the reason Andy Botwin is this way is due to his own father, Lenny (Albert Brooks). Growing up, Judah was the “good” son, Andy was the screw-up, and Lenny never passes up an opportunity to remind Andy of this. Lenny is a deadbeat in his own right, but that sort of thing takes a long time for a kid to realise about a parent, and thus did Andy a world of damage over the years. This world of damage gets revisited when they visit Lenny at their childhood home in Ren Mar. Not only does he have to deal with his father again, but his paternal grandmother is there too—sort of. Lenny has Bubbe hooked up to machines, barely alive, living off her social security. Like I said…deadbeat.

With Nancy’s sons, Silas and Shane, Uncle Andy is easily one of the best male figures in either of their bizarre, messed-up lives—and not just because Andy Botwin can cook. Yes, he’s there with the pizza eggs and the big-brotherly advice (his words to Shane on Why We Ought Not To Masturbate Into Our Socks are wisdom for the ages). For all that Nancy may not respect Andy or take him seriously, she depends on him. And Andy puts up with Nancy’s crap over and over again, telling himself it’s for the sake of the kids. Lord knows his love for them is genuine, and his caregiver nature is genuine. When Nancy alienates Silas (Hunter Parrish) and he goes out on his own as a pot dealer, he approaches Andy to work with him. Unlike Nancy, Silas says, he will take Andy seriously. Of course that doesn’t work out, but still.

When Nancy has a third son with a scary Mexican gangster, it’s Andy to whom she runs for help—she’s pissed Esteban Reyes (Demian Bichir) off a LOT (like, if not for the baby, she would have been executed already kind of pissed off). She thinks that her having the baby in the US, with a US birth certificate, will help protect them. She even puts Andy’s name on the baby’s birth certificate as the father, without his consent. Andy says okay fine, you want me to be his father, I’ll be his father…but that means I will BE his father, and that means more than a name on a piece of paper. Scary baby daddy is NOT pleased to walk in on a bris to find his son being circumcised and given a Hebrew name, but oh well.

For a little while, there’s weird domesticity in the Botwin household. She can even stand up to Esteban briefly on Andy’s behalf (though that’s more about her being right at Esteban than anything else, even though she knows what she’s saying is true)—“That pendejo sticks around. He fights for what he loves. He’s not a coward.” Andy’s there for the diaper changing, the feeding, all that. He’s even there to save Nancy from potential mastitis—the two of them are out for dinner and she didn’t pump enough breast milk before leaving the house. First you tell the guy who’s in love with you that it’s never going to happen, and then you drag him into the ladies’ room and make him suck the milk out of you so your engorged breasts get some relief. Look, I’ve been there, it’s not comfortable. But that’s a hell of a boundary to push.

Nancy sits on Andy's lap in the Ladies' Room of a tiki bar, about to present her engorged left breast so he can suck the milk out of it

Andy and Women

One thing about Andy Botwin that’s a repeating problem is his questionable taste in women. I have no idea who or what Justin Kirk sleeps with in real life. I don’t care, and it’s none of my business. As Bobby and Prior he was gay, and he was very good at it. Andy Botwin is straight to the point where vaginas are practically a religion for him, and he’s very good at that.

Andy Botwin is one of those blessed guys who can find something desirable about almost anyone—or at least make her feel that way. And he’s a really good listener, and he’s got the big bedroom eyes with the nine feet of eyelashes working for him. So he’s got zero trouble scoring with pretty much whoever…unfortunately, with his hedonistic lifestyle, most of those women do him more harm than good. He doesn’t seem to learn anything from the women who turn out to be bad ideas either, apart from fleeing them—he says more than once that fleeing is a particular skill of his.

Andy gives Audra a foot massage

Enter Dr. Audra (Alanis Morrissette). Out of all the Andy-women, Audra is the one it really broke my heart for him to lose. Audra was the OB/GYN who delivered baby Stevie. When Andy first tries to date her, she gives him a chance, but then decides that she doesn’t need a manchild in her life (also one, she says, who is still hung up on Nancy). She’s nice about it, but the gauntlet is thrown down. Andy rises to the challenge. He wins her over and they are delightful and adorable.

When Nancy takes the kids and moves south to marry her baby daddy, Andy and Audra and their amazing sex life have a brief idyll together. She even moves in with him to avoid a bunch of Fundamentalist protesters who harass her at her clinic (no pressure, separate bedrooms if she wants—which she doesn’t), and he cooks every night, and has philosophies like, “If you don’t climax, the terrorists win.” Bless.

Andy plans to propose to Audra, and he wants to give her the ring that his grandfather gave his grandmother, his father gave his mother, and his brother gave Nancy. It’s a family heirloom, and besides, he’s a man on a budget. And in order to get the ring, he has to go south to get it from Nancy. She pushes back on it, but eventually relents. When Nancy makes the comment that men are weak, Andy responds, “I’m not. I’m fucken steel,” and Nancy actually says she agrees with him…though she follows that up with “and you’re getting married,” so I can’t be sure she means the first half of that any more than she does the second.

I honestly don’t know if the next thing would happen without his recent Nancy-exposure to weaken his resolve, but it always seemed a bit of a stretch to me, for all his talk about fleeing—Andy and Audra get home, engaged and happy, and are confronted by Gayle the Fundamentalist protester, holding a loaded crossbow at Audra. They’re there about two seconds before Andy nosedives out of the room, leaving his fiancee alone with the terrorist and his crossbow. And that’s a thing I always have trouble with, not only because I expect better from Andy, but frankly because I expect crazier from Andy. Truly, I would have found it more in character for him to have done something like fling himself at Gayle and take a crossbow bolt in the shoulder in the process. For all his talk about fleeing, Andy is a guy with balls. But he’s also stronger with Nancy there to support his backbone, positively or negatively, and it’s not until she gets there to provide distraction (and make off with his larger car) that he is able to charge Gayle, and the two of them take the terrorist down.

Andy and Audra, naked in bed, eating dinner

Would Audra have been able to forgive him his moment of weakness if it had been anyone else on the planet who showed up to be the other half of his tag team? Maybe. Lord knows she’s rightfully pissed, telling Andy over and over that he might as well just leave with Nancy. Nancy, who is simply not capable of releasing him, defends what a great guy he is, and then, as if suddenly reminded, suggests that yeah, maybe he should leave with her and the kids. Was it a test before he failed it? Who knows. But when he says he might as well go since Audra says there’s no chance of fixing things with her, and she tells him he was supposed to have stayed and fought for her, then there’s definitely no chance of fixing things with her. End of Chapter Audra.

The other woman that’s a big deal in Andy Botwin’s life is Nancy’s older sister, Jill. Jill and Andy initially hook up over a few drinks and bonding over how much Nancy sucks. We don’t see Jill again for a while, and then she’s the other side in the tug-of-war over Nancy’s son Stevie, but eventually (Season 8) it is Andy who comes up with the compromise that works for this weird family for a little while. The sisters get a stalemate, Stevie gets two moms, and everyone gets to share a big house in Connecticut. 

This would all be great, except karma from Nancy’s past follows her in the form of a .22 calibre slug to the head. In a strange way, this is actually good for the whole family, and especially Andy. The time Nancy spends in the hospital is time away from her toxic life, and everyone learns how to live without her being the sun around which everyone has this insane orbit. Andy and Jill reconnect (up against the wall of Nancy’s hospital room, in fact) and are real parents to Stevie, and Jill’s obnoxious twin girls. It’s certainly possible that Jill is at least partially a Nancy substitute, but they legitimately enjoy each other, have terrific sex, and Andy truly cherishes this normal family dynamic. When Jill goes off to have dinner with her visiting ex-husband and Andy gets psyched out by the twins telling him Mom has flings all the time and then goes home, Andy’s freaked that he’s going to lose his family. His impulsive nature hasn’t mellowed with the passage of time…he follows them to the restaurant and distracts Jill…up against the wall of the ladies’ room. Not just sex, he insists. They have something more. Even the twins’ dad (and these girls can be real brats when they want to) tells them to listen to Andy, before he stops trying with them and takes off back to India.

When Nancy comes home, she’s a third wheel in this domestic scene, including trying to find ways to parent Stevie that fit into his routine…and let’s face it, Jill is not exactly generous when it comes to sharing him. And proximity to Nancy makes Andy start questioning the life he had just begun to feel secure in. He reflexively does her bidding, which pisses Jill off, which makes her passive-aggressively act out at Nancy, and when he calls Jill out on it, she feels that he’s betraying their family and tells him they’re done. It’s about five minutes after that when he gets hit on by the coach of the girls’ roller derby team—and hey, Jill broke up with him, right? And of course, later that afternoon Jill decides she wants him back and is irked that he slept with someone else so soon, though she quickly sleeps with their roommate Doug (Kevin Nealon) to even out the score. It bears mentioning, by the way, Roller Derby Girl provides what I think is a keen bit of insight into Andy Botwin’s character when she tells him, “Look, I can’t speak as to why those other women whip off their clothes for you, but I can tell you why I did…cause you never shut up about the women in your life. I mean, most guys just talk about themselves. You talk about them. I guess maybe those other women, like me, maybe they just wanted someone to talk about them as much as you talk about Jill and Nancy.”

Jill, holding a positive pregnancy test, stands between Andy and Doug

Andy and Jill may be iffy about getting back together, but whoops! Jill’s pregnant. Andy has to wrap his brain around that, and his own daddy issues. The scene in which he comes to the realisation that no, he’s not his father, and he genuinely wants to be a father, is a joy to behold. Only, whoops again! Jill isn’t pregnant—it’s early menopause. Which is rough for any woman to deal with, and especially for one who thinks her baby daddy is going to leave her without the biological tie. The time she spends keeping the pregnancy a secret is time Andy spends bonding with her daughters, imagining his own actual progeny, practising his dadding (we knew you had it in you, Andy Botwin) is wonderful. Even Nancy is positive that he’ll stick when Jill tells him the truth, and there’s a brief shining moment when they’re contemplating countries they could adopt a baby from…but no, it’s that classic scenario of a man pushing 40, suddenly feeling the need to reproduce his own DNA. Andy, Andy, Andy. In those 20 seconds of screen time, you almost lost all your points with me…sorry, but I find the whole “I love you until you can’t bear my babies” way unattractive. Yes, she didn’t help matters by lying to him about it for a few weeks. Yes, there’s still the Nancy thing. Exit Jill.

Rebound plus an impulsive nature can get you into trouble…at least, it can make you find yourself suddenly married to the 22-year-old waitress you just met in the diner. You do this because you’re afraid of male menopause and she seems like the personification of everything that isn’t Nancy, plus she gave you extra blueberries. That doesn’t work out either. Joanna the waitress (Aubrey Dollar) is a little too young—to her, making the marriage official means updating her Facebook status and introducing Andy to the roommates he didn’t know she had. I don’t think they even manage to consummate the marriage before his bride tells him that she has no interest in having kids for another ten years, and she married Andy because he reminded her of her dad.

Andy and Philosophy

“Life is just blah, blah, blah. You hope for blah. And sometimes you find it. But mostly it is blah. And waiting for blah. And hoping you are right about the blahs you made and then just when you think you have the whole blah damned thing figured out and you are surrounded by the ones you blah death shows up. And blah blah blah.” Some of my favourite Andy moments are the ones where he ruminates to no one in particular about life, the universe and everything—along with this fantastic philosophical monologue about karma, reincarnation, and why women are constantly throwing themselves at him.

Andy Botwin isn’t a loser. Andy Botwin is an idealist. He loves the idea of Nancy, though even he knows that the reality of her is a hot mess who doesn’t love him back and never will (need, yes—love, no). Throughout this whole thing, Andy has had a thing about going to Copenhagen. Copenhagen is, for some reason, Andy Botwin’s Shangri-La, his Mecca, his Disneyland. At the end of Season 6, Nancy goes to jail, and he finally gets to take the two older boys and go. When Season 7 picks up three years later, Andy and the lads are settled in Denmark. I don’t know if I’d say they are living their best lives, but Silas has a successful modelling career, Shane (Alexander Gould) is doing puppetry and a hot older woman, and Andy is running tours and selling a bicycle gadget he invented called the “Copenhagen Wheel” (it’s actually a real thing). When word comes across the ocean that Nancy has gotten out of prison early, Shane insists on going home—she went to jail for the crime he committed, after all. There’s a bit of emotional tug-of-war for Andy…should he stay in this place he likes, being free, or does he go back to the Nancy crazy train? Telling himself that it’s all about supervising Shane (sigh), they all pack up and head back to the states.

Andy in the middle of a crowded square in Copenhagen, wearing a t-shirt that says "Wonderful Wonderful Tours"

Season 7 is all about Andy and soul searching. He takes up with a polyamorous artist named Maxeen (Lindsay Sloane)—I think he’s more into her husband Charles than he is into her. He has the sex with Maxeen, but it’s Charles (much older, dying of pancreatic cancer, and wanting his young wife to be happy) it seems like he wants to spend time with. He met Maxeen when she had hired Silas to walk around a party in a plastic bubble, which suddenly had the air sucked out of it. Andy, thinking Silas was going to suffocate, slashed the plastic with a knife from the buffet table, freed Silas, and knocked Maxeen’s socks off. She said that in showing that “exhibit” all over the world, Andy is the first person who ever acted, ever came to the aid of the man in the bubble. To Andy, there was no question in taking action. See what I mean when I said I had trouble buying him running out on Audra like that? Andy has no problem whatsoever taking action…when Nancy is far away from the equation. Eventually Andy has to break up with the couple after a scare where he has to resuscitate Charles (David Clennon). It’s too close to his own grandmother, he says, who lay there in her bed waiting to die while life went on around her. “I didn’t flee,” he says of his poly life with the couple, “I passed.” Exactly.

This whole thing is enough of a come-to-Jesus for Andy that he doesn’t want anything to do with the pot business anymore. He wants to do the thing with his Copenhagen wheel and his bike shop, and he wants to do it for real. It always pisses me off that the only reason anyone in the family is willing to support him in this is because his business is a front for the “real” one, the pot one. No one in the family wants to acknowledge growth in any of them…and really, it’s only Nancy who is still the same as she was in the beginning. If anything, she’s even more Nancy than she was at the top of the show. Andy and the boys have grown, and it is frustrating how they still strive for her approval.

Further Andy-rebellion happens in the form of Bill Sussman. Bill Sussman is what happens when everyone goes to an exclusive club in the Hamptons in search of rich people to soak for a week, and the open bar introduces Andy to his first Long Island iced tea…and his second, third, and fourth (we’ve all been there, Andy—those things are yummy and deadly). Bill is the persona Andy puts on to schmooze the wealthy potential clients, and winds up proving the whole “in wine there is truth” theory (well, not wine, but every other liquor on the planet that goes into a LI iced tea). Bill doesn’t want to be at Nancy’s beck and call. Bill is aggressive, and frankly, kind of an asshole…the anti-Andy. “I have a lot to learn from someone like Bill. Doing it his way, refusing to take no for an answer, cause that’s how he got his fortune…Andy Botwin sleeps on an air mattress, has to borrow money from a kid to start a business that’s about to go belly-up, and is obsessed with a woman who’s a self-centred, heartless sociopath.” Of course later, from the depths of his hangover, he welcomes the return of being Andy Botwin. It’s not like he hadn’t said similar to Nancy before…and she didn’t take Bill any more seriously than she did Andy.

At the same time, however, Charles finally dies of his cancer, and Andy realises that there are more important things in the world than selling dope and family drama. Silas goes with him to the funeral and points out that a thing Andy has in common with the deceased is that the only thing that’s important to him is the happiness of the people he loves. He’s right.

Andy and Nancy

Okay, we had to get here some time. You’ve probably gleaned by now that I am not a Nancy Botwin fan. I don’t remember when exactly she lost me, but the more my love for Andy grew, the more I disliked her for not appreciating him. For all his talk about fleeing, the one person he won’t flee from, for better or worse, is Nancy. Is he really in love with her? She tells him no, it’s just him wanting something he can’t have. Still, she doesn’t want Andy herself, but she doesn’t want anyone else to have him either. She wants to keep him on the hook forever.

Andy listens to Nancy as they sit on the beach

Seriously—we should all have someone in our lives who is as unconditionally devoted to us as Andy Botwin is to Nancy…though hopefully, we would be more appreciative of our Andys than she is of hers. He does illegal things for her. He defends her to her older sons, who probably would have walked out on her (to their own betterment) long ago, especially when her priority clearly becomes Stevie over them.

The Botwin family is constantly on the run. And each time they land somewhere Andy could make a fresh start and have a real thing, it gets thwarted, and each time, that thwarting wouldn’t matter if he were able to walk away from Nancy, only he can’t. The repeated rounds of “Nancy, release me”/“Okay Andy, I release you only really I don’t because I don’t want you to ever leave me because you’re my emotional support human” become increasingly frustrating and heartbreaking. When Nancy finally turns herself over to the feds (and Stevie over to her sister) as the only way to keep out of the hands of the Mexicans, she tells Andy to look after her sons and get them out of the country. And he does.

When everyone goes back to California, where the series started, Andy is snubbed by his old rabbinical school girlfriend and decides there is no God (remember?). Godless and empty inside, when Nancy takes him for a walk to the spot where her first husband, Andy’s brother Judah, died, he tells her that’s it. He’s done. And something in his face must tell her to take him seriously this time, because she seduces him…it’s kind of a combination of hate-sex and closure-sex, him finishing with the least pleasurable-looking climax I have ever seen a man have. Then, without a word, he gets up and literally runs away from her (there’s that fleeing he was talking about), as she screams at him not to leave.

Megan holds baby Flora while Andy makes frittatas.
Photo: Michael Desmond/Showtime

The finale is set many years later, at Stevie’s bar mitzvah (it cracks me up that in place of his haftorah, Stevie tells the congregation that he isn’t Jewish, he may not believe in God, and he wants to go to boarding school). Nancy hasn’t heard from Andy all these years, and resigned herself to the idea that he isn’t going to come, but surprise—he’s not one to let his nephew down, and he’s already there making breakfast. Nancy, whose most recent husband (she married Rabbi Dave) has died, same as all her husbands, makes a last ditch effort to get Emotional Support Andy back in her life. I think at this point, however, she knows it’s futile, and releasing your loved ones is actually better. Andy has already taken for himself the last piece of advice he gives to her, and he’s spent the whole series looking for it—“Time for you to face yourself.”

Andy’s eventual happy ending is far away from Nancy, as we all knew it would have to be. He’s living in his father’s old place (completely remodelled) and he’s a dad (co-parenting, but not married to baby mommy—we never meet her, but we hear from Silas that they’re friends) and he’s a chef with his own place. I’ll tell you, Andy’s Place or whatever he calls it sounds like somewhere I want to go—more than that, it sounds like exactly what he needs, a place where he has total autonomy to cook whatever he wants, where he is the main character, not the supporting goofball sidekick in someone else’s life. And I bet the food is terrific.

Written by Cat Smith

Cat Smith is the reigning Miss Nerdstiles, having inherited the crown from absolutely no one, because she made it up. She is an actor, a musician, a cosplayer since before they had a word for it, and a general nuisance (General Nuisance *salute*). She and her ukulele have charmed the collective socks off of LI Who and LI Geek, ReGeneration Who, WHOlanta, Potterverse, Coal Hill Con, Time Eddy, MISTI-Con, Hudson Valley Comic Con, Wicked Faire, SqueeCon, The Way Station, and The Pandorica Restaurant . She has written for "Outside In" and "Why I Geek" (among others), and you can find her music on bandcamp at Consider supporting her continuing adventures by becoming a patron at

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