There are few better ways to open up an episode of television than with the classic “I Want to Sex You Up,” by the ’80s R&B group Color Me Badd. It’s a saucy song for a saucy opening, which shows Rebecca and Sam cuddling in bed. They’re also debating the public status of their relationship, with Rebecca wanting to maintain some sexy secrecy, while Sam wants to be openly affectionate with her. The conversation continues in the kitchen, despite the fact they’re unable to keep their hands off each other. This is, of course, the perfect time for Deborah to walk in unannounced. After introductions are made between Deborah and a very embarrassed Sam (“I sincerely wish I wasn’t in my boxers right now”), Rebecca jumps straight to the point by asking her mother, “What’s my father done this time?” to which Deborah responds, “He died.”
The day of the funeral, we find Rebecca in bed again, but in far less sexy circumstances, sleeping soundly in her old bedroom at her family home until she’s rudely awakened by music blaring. I can think of worse ways to be woken up, though being Rick Rolled into consciousness would certainly be a shock to the system. Deborah, after being beckoned upstairs by Rebecca’s annoyed wails, defends her choice by declaring her love for the Rick Astley tune because it makes her happy (“Once I love something, I love it forever”). Though Rebecca is confused by her mother’s decision to embrace happiness on such a solemn day, it’s hard to argue with the inclination to surround yourself with what you love most on one of the saddest days of your life. The discussion soon comes to a halt when the delightful Sassy starts making her way up and through the window in teenage fashion with Nora right behind her. Alas, our favorite teenager is less practiced than her mother and winds up on the lawn (thankfully unhurt!).
Even for those not directly impacted by a death, funerals make people ruminate on the subject of death. It’s no different for Keeley, who wonders aloud about deathcare as she and Roy get themselves ready for the funeral. It’s a subject most people, Keeley included, tend to take rather seriously, but Roy disregards it with jokes. This stymies her, as it’s the second time (the first being in the coaches’ office at Richmond) he’s shrugged her off when she’s speaking earnestly. Plenty of people find comfort in dark humor when death is the topic at hand, but when your significant other asks you about your final wishes—not to mention expresses theirs—you might want to take it easy on the comedy routine. Poor Keeley now has to make her way to the funeral feeling angry and more than a little annoyed with Mister Hairy Kebab.
Guests begin to arrive at the church, and as Rebecca and Deborah greet each attendee, who should show up but Rupert (ugh) of all people. Worse yet, he has the gall to appear with fiancée Bex and their new baby girl. Deborah makes nice, but Rebecca quickly excuses herself, with Rupert observing her discomfort with scarcely concealed delight, like a lost vampire who’s just accidentally wandered into a blood bank. Thank goodness, that’s when the AFC Richmond bus pulls up, and the entire team disembarks, giving their condolences. Rebecca is touched, but when Sam steps off, something more than gratitude crosses her face, though the two are unable to express anything beyond professional politeness. Inside the church, Rupert continues to make his way through (odd, as that runs counter to everything we know about vampire lore) the crowd before coming across Sassy, who I believe speaks for everyone when she greets him with nothing but an enthusiastic wish for his demise (Sassy, you’re a real one, girl). Despite his unholy evil, Rebecca can’t help but stare as he shows off the baby to guests. A theme begins to emerge in the episode, when yet another loved one, Keeley this time, shows up to offer her comfort when she needs it most: “That baby’s whack. I hate it.” May we all be blessed with such good friends. Albeit said friend may temporarily abandon you mere moments later in favor of a squealing reunion with your other good friend (Sassy), but hey, we’re all just human (except for Rupert).
Later, Rebecca, Keeley, and Sassy are talking and laughing amongst themselves in private, away from the many attendees. Their rip-roaring time is loud enough to disturb the vicar, undoubtedly mortified by the sounds of merriment on such a somber occasion, and Deborah, followed by Nora, arrive to quell the party. It does absolutely no good since the cat’s now out of the bag that Rebecca has been seeing someone for the last two weeks. All except Deborah, who knows all too well who it is, try to learn about this mystery man via a game of twenty questions—Nora’s giddy “This is thrilling,” is so endearing and reminds me all too well of the excitement that came with getting to Hang Out With The Grown Ups as a teenager—and in one of those improbable, out the ballpark home run guesses that happen every now and then, Keeley guesses it’s Sam, and Rebecca’s affirmation sends the room screaming. The vicar, now having had quite enough, kicks all of them out with the exception of Deborah and Rebecca.
Ted is also getting ready for the funeral, grooving along and getting dressed, when seemingly out of nowhere he begins to suffer a panic attack. We see Sharon receive his literal call for help, and she immediately heads to his flat. Aware of his father’s suicide (after Ted confided as much to her a few episodes ago), Sharon naturally assumes that Ted’s panic attack has been triggered by memories of his father’s funeral. Surprisingly, that’s not the case, with Ted revealing he refused to attend his father’s funeral because “he quit.” The bitterness and conviction he uses to express this is so strong it’s as though it happened days ago, so fresh is his pain. Sharon finally asks him for details on what exactly happened: Ted was a teenager, having just arrived home from school when he heard a gunshot, only to discover his father’s body immediately after.
What’s spectacular about Ted’s reveal (aside from the heart-wrenching content) is that it’s edited to incorporate Rebecca’s admission of why she loathes her now-deceased father. She relays the story of catching her father mid-coitus, and we pivot back and forth between their two experiences, knitting the story beats together, from their young age to their horrified screams. They have both experienced trauma in their youth—though Ted does have the addition of self-inflicted violence and the finality of death to also contend with—and both have only now allowed themselves to acknowledge it aloud in the presence of another.
Once out, however, their experiences diverge from there. Ted is able to summon a happy memory of his father, and once he experiences this release, he sweetly asks Sharon if he can have a hug. Rebecca, meanwhile, is utterly incapable of coming up with a single good word for her father, and upon finding out that Deborah knew about his cheating and made the conscious decision to stay, Rebecca declares that she hates her now as well. It’s a stinging moment (the combined excellence of Waddingham and Walter in this scene cannot be overstated), but there’s doubt behind that statement. In any case, Deborah takes it on the chin (“I’ll take your anger over your indifference any day”), followed up by the admission that despite her fear of ending up alone, she was fiercely proud of Rebecca for her decision to leave Rupert, and the only reason she treats him so kindly is to deprive him of any satisfaction. Rebecca is partially amazed and a bit softened, just in time for the service to start. Now tasked with delivering the eulogy, unprepared and rocked by old memories and new discoveries, she takes the only option available to her at the moment:
She begins reciting Rick Astley’s “Never Gonna Give You Up.”
Rebecca transitions into softly singing the words, looking down at Deborah much of the time. Just as emotion takes her and the words falter, Ted, who has arrived late but has shown up nonetheless, picks the tune right back up from where she left it. Soon the entire church is singing, with her nearest and dearest singing the loudest. Once the service is over, Rebecca (taking her cue from her earlier discussion with Deborah), graciously thanks Rupert for coming, while Deborah invites him to the intimate gathering happening at the house. He rears back as though he were suddenly in the presence of garlic, as his kind are wont to do, and makes his excuses and leaves. But not before informing Rebecca that she is welcome to have Bex’s shares of Richmond (“I mean, there’s just no time for footie these days.” Yeah, I’m sure you’re a real hands-on father) and lingering just long enough to whisper something into Nathan’s ear.
One of the things about catharsis is that although change can often be for the better, sometimes it means leaving people behind. Now that Rebecca has developed greater insight into her mother and the emotional scars left by her experience with her father and Rupert, she realizes that she has some healing to do, and she needs to do it on her own. Breaking up with Sam is the only logical conclusion, sad as it may be. When she tries to locate him, he pulls her into a cupboard. Alone at last, he says the words that usually precede a moment of passion: “I’ve wanted to do this all day but haven’t had the chance.” Rebecca prepares herself for a kiss, only to be enfolded in the warmest hug possible. There may be a dozen reasons for this pairing to not happen, but I admire the hell out of Rebecca for having the conviction to still break up with him after that kind of emotional display. Sam accepts her decision with nothing but respect for her needs. Well, and with just a tiny amount of cheek (“I’m only gonna get more wonderful”). As everyone begins to head home—some to other people’s homes, looking at you, Sassy and Ted—and give their goodbyes, Sam takes one lingering look at Rebecca before boarding the bus back to Richmond.
For a season that’s been consistently dedicated to fathers and sons, most of whom are absent in one way or another, having some of the focus aimed on a present (if not flawed) mother makes for a pleasant counterbalance. This may well be my favorite episode of the season thus far, despite the fact that the writers have brought about my least favorite plot development of the entire series: the decision to have Jaime declare his love for Keeley. I don’t like what it may mean for Keeley’s relationship with Roy, nor for Jaime’s (tenuous) relationship with Roy. It feels like an enormous step back for the two men. With only two more episodes left in the season, it also seems very late in the game to introduce a love triangle, a device that I’m already not terribly fond of, personally. I also dislike when a series seeks to create drama by shaking up a rock-solid couple—some insensitive jokes about death are not enough to push their relationship to the brink. With that said, I have enough faith that the writers will carry this through with the quality and style that fans have come to know and love. Otherwise, the rest of the episode was stellar. I so appreciate the enormous steps Ted has taken in regard to Sharon and her occupation (“I appreciate your integrity.” That’s huge). With so much still hanging in the air, not to mention a football season to still get through, it’s likely the episodes will continue clearing the 45-minute mark, though I wouldn’t be surprised if the finale pushes an hour. So take off your dress shoes and put on your trainers, we’ve got a long way to go.
Deborah: “Boxer briefs. And like clunky exposition, they leave very little to the imagination.”
Keeley: “So where do you think her father is now?”
Roy: “In the drawer of a funeral home.”
Leslie: “I like to imagine a Heaven where animals are in charge and humans are the pets. I’d like to spend eternity curled up in front of a fire at Cindy Clawford’s feet.”
Roy: “Avenge me, Keeley. Avenge me!”
Sam: “Oh no. I hate big ‘buts’ and I can not lie.”
Kaleena Rivera is the TV Editor for Pajiba. When she isn’t carving stakes to drive into Rupert’s heart, she can be found on Twitter here.
Header Image Source: Apple TV+