Better Things: Season 3, Episode 10 “Show Me the Magic” – Recap, Review (with Spoilers)

Sam pointing her glasses towards the sun.
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With Sam complaining about not being seen, you may think it is due to lack of intimacy but could it be just wishing she could talk to her dad?

Director(s) Pamela Adlon
Writer(s) Pamela Adlon, Ira Parker
Air Date 5/2/2019
Introduced This Episode
Murray Adam Kulbersh
Pascal Rachel True
Lenny Cree Summer

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A Ladies Night Ruined By Men: Lala, Lenny, Pascal, Tressa, Sam

Sam seems lonely to the point of it being clear she isn’t looking for intimacy in the form of sex but just a connection with another adult – period. Making these rare ladies night everything to her but between Ida messing around with the boys and the drugs, it made Lala’s birthday party not what Sam needed to recharge. Then, when Lala hosts a New Years event, her husband showing up kills the vibe Lala, Lenny, Pascal, Tressa, and Sam had going.

Which, when Sam points that out, she gets treated like the bad guy over. Lala even makes it seem Sam is jealous that she has someone and Sam doesn’t have anyone to go home to but her kids. Which sort of shuts Sam down and leads to Lenny and Tressa to try to mend things since they see that was a hard blow for her.

I See Grandpa: David, Sam, Duke, Frankie, Murray

Murray (Adam Kulbersh) talking about his gay experiences in the 70s.
Murray (Adam Kulbersh)

The harder things are for Sam, the more Murray seems hell-bent (probably not the best choice of words) to try and help. Unfortunately, more often than not, he appears in front of Duke and with her scared of him, and Frankie co-signing there is something in the house, Sam gets desperate. How desperate? Well, she talks to David about pretending to be a medium, and this offends him.

Why? Well, because he wants to be taken seriously and not like someone Sam sees because she either doesn’t have much prospects or he is accessible. Which Sam tries to reassure him about by making out but, arguably, that’s to keep him in her life and happy more than her committing to a damn thing.

Daddy Isn’t Here: Sam, Murray, Duke

There might be a need to question how much do the girls know about Sam’s childhood and her father? Do they know about their relationship? Duke seemingly couldn’t remember he died of a heart attack so is how he died mentioned ever? Is him being a ghost not because of Sam having a bit of a mental break but because he is an actual ghost of the past people ignore who wants to be seen, acknowledged, and his impact noted?

Could that explain why Duke decided to eat his ashes in a peanut butter and jelly sandwich? Not because she is just a weird child, but she sees how much he means to her mom, so she wants more of him in her? Especially to counteract her dad’s influence? Excuse the questions but with us finally getting some headway with Murray’s ghost, I’m a little excited.


How Deep Sam’s Loneliness Is

Sam crying over a mouse.

In nearly every other episode, Sam speaks about not feeling seen and points to menopause being part of, if not the problem – alongside aging. However, I think with us seeing Lala pack it up so quick, it isn’t just about aging and men not taking note. Sam wants real conversations. She wants to be engaged in intimate moments and discussions which makes her feel like something beyond a mother, beyond whatever David feels, and makes her feel part of something again. Which, unfortunately for her, it is like as soon as she feels a connection something interrupts it and she has to wait for days, weeks, if not months, for that feeling again. And it is driving her insane.

Duke and Sam Having A Moment

Duke is one of the characters who easily make touching moments on the show. Be it her making sure Sam has what she needs for her cleanse, her scene with Marion in the car, or learning about Murray on Sam’s bed. It’s those kind of moments which help you see Sam’s soft side and remind you that as gruff as she can be, it isn’t because she wants to. There is just a lot on her plate and often times no one steps up, but her, to address the BS. So Duke often allowing her to have peace helps you understand why she clearly is the favorite.

Murray’s Presence Is Starting To Make Sense

With Sam approaching the age her father died, it makes sense that a lot of things dealing with mortality, feeling forgotten, are starting to bug her. Maybe even lead to her dad feeling conjured up. For if it isn’t the idea of death staring her in the face, it’s the question of how will she be mourned? If not, when it comes to her kids, has she fully prepped them for a life without her?

Breaking all that down, I think the biggest thing here is that Sam probably didn’t get to really mourn her father the way she wanted to. With a showbiz career, and mom like Phil, who knows if she really got to sit, cry for days and weeks, over the man who was not only her father but probably one of her best friends. Taking note of Duke and Sam’s relationship, the way Sam presents things, likely her relationship to Murray was the same way. So him popping up likely is because the anniversary of his death is coming up paired with Sam reaching the point he left her and Marion.

Which, as shown by how terrible Marion and Phil’s relationship is, likely was a turning point in her childhood. And while Sam does have a community of friends, they have kids, don’t want kids, and that probably leads to some fear for what may happen to her children. And it seems Murray’s appearance is of a similar ilk to when Mary Poppins or other magical figures appear. With Sam at the end of her rope, unsure what to do, he is showing up since he likely was the last person she knew she could turn to. Thus why he brings up the gay thing and how that should have made her laugh. That’s what he once was to Sam – the person who knew how to make things better, if just for a moment.

Low Point

I Really Do Need Them To Put Some Respeck On Frankie’s Name

Frankie noting Sam never listens to her.

As spoken with luna margo valentine when we chat on Twitter, Frankie is getting a very raw deal from Sam. She doesn’t get these Duke and Sam moments, nor the pursuit of understanding Max gets so she can flourish. Frankie is mostly just given eye rolls and treated on the same level as Murray. Like she is a ghost that Sam is hoping will go away if she doesn’t engage her too much. But, luckily, it seems the next episode may force the two to spend some time together. Now, whether it ends in drama, we’ll find out.

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Season/ EpisodeSynopsisEpisode InformationTopics & Focused Characters
Season 3, Episode 8 “Easter”It’s Easter and while Max does a photo shoot, and Sam cooks up a storm, Phil causes a bigger scene than usual with Duke and Marion.
Director(s) Pamela Adlon
Writer(s) Sarah Gubbins, Robin Ruzan
Air Date 4/18/2019
Introduced This Episode
Esther Margaret Avery
Olivier Shak Ghacha
Walter Harrison Page
  • Max’s Photoshoot: Sam, Olivier, Max
  • Phil Is Shameless: Walter, Esther, Phil, Duke, Marion
  • The Truth About Your Mother & Father: Marion, Duke
Season 3, Episode 9 “The Unknown”It’s a slice of life episode which largely seems to be self-contained until we realized how integral Mer was for everything that happens.
Director(s) Pamela Adlon
Writer(s) Sarah Gubbins
Air Date 4/25/2019
  • The Troubles Of Not Feeling Appreciated: Tressa, Mer, Sam
Season 3, Episode 10 “Show Me the Magic”With Sam complaining about not being seen, you may think it is due to lack of intimacy but could it be just wishing she could talk to her dad?
Director(s) Pamela Adlon
Writer(s) Pamela Adlon, Ira Parker
Air Date 5/2/2019
Introduced This Episode
Murray Adam Kulbersh
Pascal Rachel True
Lenny Cree Summer
  • A Ladies Night Ruined By Men: Lala, Lenny, Pascal, Tressa, Sam
  • I See Grandpa: David, Sam, Duke, Frankie, Murray
  • Daddy Isn’t Here: Sam, Murray, Duke
Season 3, Episode 7 “Toilet”Sam's colonoscopy packet.

It’s Mother’s Day and the eve of Sam’s colonoscopy, and it seems she needs to let some s*** go.
Director(s) Pamela Adlon
Writer(s) Pamela Adlon, Joe Hortua
Air Date 4/11/2019
  • My Middle Child: Frankie, Sam
  • The Only One Who Cares: Duke, Max, Sam
  • Physically Fine, Mentally/Emotionally Worn Down: Sam, Dr. Miller
Season 3, Episode 6 “What is Jeopardy”Dr. Miller (Matthew Broderick) saying Hi to Sam.

As Sam revisits her past, far more than she’d like to, Phil finds herself part of one life-changing event and admitting that, for her personal life, things aren’t the same.
Director(s) Pamela Adlon
Writer(s) Pamela Adlon, Ira Parker
Air Date 4/4/2019
Introduced This Episode
Deezy Miller Matthew Broderick
  • It’s Time: Phil, Frankie, Duke, Marion
  • The Doctor Who Used To Make Out With You: Dr. Miller, Sam
  • One Last Time: Xander, Sam
Season 3, Episode 3 “Nesting”What begins as a nice family dinner becomes what all do – a bit of bickering, regret, and then a thankful calm.
Director(s) Pamela Adlon
Writer(s) Joe Hortua, Sarah Gubbins
Air Date 3/14/2019
Introduced This Episode
Murray Adam Kulbersh
Reiki Sharon Stone
Mer Marsha Thomason
  • Exes and New Beaus: Sam, Jeff, Sunny, Reiki
  • We Need To Talk About Phil: Marion, Sam, Phil
  • Papa Can You Hear Me: Murray, Sam
Season 3, Episode 4 “Monsters in the Moonlight”At this point in her life, Sam wishes things would get easier and it wasn’t always on her. Yet, who does she know willing to step up?
Director(s) Pamela Adlon
Writer(s) Pamela Adlon, Sarah Gubbins
Air Date 3/21/2019
  • The Kids: Sam, Duke, Max, Frankie
  • Work: Sam
  • The Seduction: Mer, Sam
Season 3, Episode 5 “No Limit”After a trying few days, Sam has a bit of a breakdown that drinking with friends won’t fix.
Director(s) Pamela Adlon
Writer(s) Pamela Adlon, Joe Hortua
Air Date 3/28/2019
Introduced This Episode
Lala Judy Reyes
Ida Rose Abdoo
Dr. Babu Usman Ally
  • Irrelevance: Sam, Lala, Ida
  • So Much For A Childhood: Sam, Frankie, Duke
  • The Doctor Is Here To F***ing See You: Sam, Dr. Babu
Season 3, Episode 2 “Holding”Between dealing with ass****s on set, and then at Duke’s school, Sam tries to pick her battles and one leads to someone getting smacked.
Director(s) Pamela Adlon
Writer(s) Pamela Adlon, Ira Parker
Air Date 3/7/2019
Introduced This Episode
Sylvester Charlie Robinson
  • All This Money & Nothing But Hot Air: Sam
  • A Push To Move On: Duke, Xander, Sam
Season 1/ Episode 1 "Sam/Pilot"In a way, the show is like a female version of Louie with the exception that Pamela Adlon is less socially awkward and she has three daughters instead of two.
Season 2/ Episode 1 “September”Better Things returns and Sam’s house is in a bit of disarray. Though, as I’m sure Sam would say, “What else is new?”
  • Duke
  • Frankie: Frankie, Jason, Sam
  • Max: Max, Arturo, Sam
Season 2/ Episode 2 “Rising”In this episode of Better Things, it seems the idea is: Sam is only a mean person if you give her reason to be a mean person.
  • Rodney: Sam, Rodney
  • You Made Your Bed: Jeff, Sam, Duke
  • Mom-Cation: Sam, Frankie, Sunny
Season 2/ Episode 3 “Robin”Could Sam have really found love? May the title of this show, Better Things, no longer be wishful thinking but actually here?
  • Robin: Robin (Henry Thomas), Sam
  • Get Me Away From These Children: Sam, Max, Frankie, Robin
  • Sometimes It’s Not Just The Thought But Effort That Counts: Robin, Sam
Season 2/ Episode 4 “Sick”As Sam is trying to talk herself into breaking up with Robin, Xander shows up and reminds her why she fears love.
  • Two For One Special: Phyllis, Sam
  • Too Good To Be True: Sam, Rich (Diedrich Bader)
  • Xander: Max, Sam, Frankie, Duke, Xander (Matthew Glave)
Season 2/ Episode 5 “Phil”While Phil has always been mean-spirited and quirky, something is seriously wrong now. To the point, Sam isn’t sure if she can handle her anymore.
  • It’s Not as Glamorous as It Seems: Phyllis
  • Prepping For End Game: Phyllis, Sam, Marion (Kevin Pollak)
  • The Girls Meet Robin: Robin, Duke, Sam, Max, Frankie
Season 2/ Episode 6 “Eulogy”In a change of pace episode, we’re shown what it is like to be in acting alongside a reminder of how much Sam means to her kids. Sam and Frankie anyway.
Season 2/ Episode 7 “Blackout”After a blackout, Jeff and Sam head on down to the store to buy a generator. Which leads to her running into Robin.
Director(s) Pamela Adlon
Writer(s) Pamela Adlon, Louis C.K.
Introduced Characters
Mia Bunnyann Riley-Holmes
Season 2/ Episode 8 “Arnold Hall”Pray for Sam everybody. For between Xander’s dad Arnold and Frankie, she may actually lose her mind – if she didn’t already lose it.
Director(s) Pamela Adlon
Writer(s) Pamela Adlon, Louis C.K.
Characters Introduced
Arnold Rade Serbedzija
  • Crazy Grandpa Arnold: Sam
  • You Made Me Wear A Dress: Frankie, Sam
Season 2/ Episode 9 “White Rock”During a trip to Canada with her kids, a family secret is learned about from Sam’s uncle Lester.
Director(s) Pamela Adlon
Writer(s) Pamela Adlon and Louis C.K.
Characters Introduced
Jarita Jane Carr
Lester Nigel Havers
Sad Lady Megs Calleja
First Nations Man Ray Thunderchild
  • Those Ghost of White Rock: Duke
  • Aunt Marion: Max, Duke, Sam, Frankie
Season 2/ Episode 10 “Graduation”It’s Max’s graduation and perhaps the parting lesson Sam gives her is about consistency and a reminder of what love is.
Director(s) Pamela Adlon
Writer(s) Pamela Adlon & Louis C.K.
  • Daddy Wasn’t There: Max, Sam
  • Yet, You Are Worthy: Sam, Max
Season 3, Episode 1 “Chicago”It has been more than a year since we were gifted with a new episode of Better Things, and this feels like an appetizer for what’s to come.
Director(s) Pamela Adlon
Writer(s) Pamela Adlon
Air Date 2/28/2019
  • It’s Hard To Say Goodbye My Love: Max, Sam
  • Mom, What You Do?: Phyllis, Sam
  • One Down, Two To Go: Frankie, Sam, Duke

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