Better Things: Season 3, Episode 12 “Shake The Cocktail” [Season Finale] – Recap, Review (with Spoilers)

Sam looking at a birthday cake which celebrates her 50th birthday.
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It’s Sam’s 50th birthday, and while Phil fails to give Sam what she wants, Frankie makes an effort and really, that is all Sam is asking for.


Network
FX
Director(s) Pamela Adlon
Writer(s) Pamela Adlon
Air Date 5/16/19

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Have You Seen My Kid?: Frankie/Frances, Sam

It has been 8 days since Frankie, also known as Frances (to Duke anyway) has paused sharing her location and has been sleeping over friends houses, if not on the streets. Why? Well, it’s complicated. Every now and then there appears to be a flare up. Which, due to there being so much between Frankie and Sam that neither know where to begin, it leaves them in this state of contentiousness. Especially since Frankie doesn’t subscribe to the idea of just letting things go and no matter how many times she confronts Sam publicly or privately, it doesn’t seem she is ready for that talk.

So, in an almost comical way, just as Sam is one persona with everyone, but Frankie, she does the same. Maybe to spite Sam or push the idea Sam is the problem. It is really hard to say.

I Just Need Some Me & You Time: Rich, Sam, Max, David

Sam looking down in shame while spending time with Rich before Frankie's recital.

Somethings don’t really change. Be it Max shamelessly having a guy in her bed or Sam maybe allowing it out of fear that, like Frankie, Max will run off and distance herself from her. But, it is a fear which is clearly unhealthy and is eating away at Sam. For being lonely, desperate even, is giving her a lot of bark. Take her lunch with Rich, for example. Her being unable to get some one on one time, since his twink of a boyfriend shows up, infuriates her. Just like when she was with her girlfriends and their husbands came around.

Really making it seem, while Sam has David, she recognizes that isn’t a real relationship. He is a placeholder, a human vibrator – if they have sex, and doesn’t add up to the kind of person she wants. Especially compared to all the friends she misses. Heck, it would also explain her missing her ex. Hitting the big 5-0 is really screwing with her as well as the idea of dying alone.

Don’t Forget, Frances/Frankie Loves You: Sam, Frankie/Frances, Phil, Rich, Duke, Max

Sam’s 50th birthday isn’t something she is necessarily keen on celebrating. She enjoys the acknowledgments from friends, family, and her children, but she doesn’t want a party. All she wants is her mom to say, never mind remember, it is her birthday. She wants Rich, despite him being mad, to still show her for her kids, for her, and not forget her just because he has some boy toy. With Duke, she just wants her to stay sweet and Max? Well, her too.

Frankie's birthday card to Sam.

With Frankie though, or Frances, who decides to come home after a recital, the love is there, but it’s one which seemingly works best at a distance. It’s hard to put into words, since their relationship is filled with words unsaid, but that in itself, as noted, is probably the problem. Though for a moment, with Frankie contacting Duke and using the name Frances, and brother, it does make you wonder if Frances is the issue here.

What I mean by that is, maybe Sam pushing the idea she has three daughters, only referring to Frances as Frankie, is the issue? But, with them signing their card to Sam as Frankie, that kills that. So one can only assume, taking note of the lyrics from “Shake It Out” by Florence and the Machine, that might be the closest we’ll get to understanding Frankie’s relationship with Sam. For maybe, like the poem in “It’s Lit,” we’re seeing Frankie perform that for a reason. Since, maybe in Frances’ (I’ll be going back and forth throughout) mind, the only way Sam knows how to open up and be vulnerable is creative expression. So how else but when on stage, the focus, will Frankie be able to speak to their mom and maybe break through to them? Find a way to express themselves in a way which is vulnerable yet doesn’t leave them feeling weak?

Question(s) Left Unanswered

  1. With it not really being a thing since season 1, what does Frankie/Frances identify as or are they still in conflict with the idea of their identity? Or could it be, since Xander isn’t around, Rich is barely around, and their uncle either, Frances represents Frankie’s persona when she is speaking as the man of the house?
  2. Did Sam push away, or freak out, so many of her friends over the course of the season that only Rich and her kids wanted to wish her a happy birthday?
  3. Is Max in an actual relationship or she just sleeps with Oliver from time to time? Also, does Sam not care anymore just so that she is able to keep a watch on Max?

Highlights

Your Brother, Frances

Frankie, or Frances, talking to Sam about using her bathtub.

I do not know how to interpret Frances, but that’s part of the appeal Frances, or Frankie, brings. Duke may have a vulgar side to her, but most of the time she is this sweet 11 year old. Max may seem like her emotions peak out of nowhere, but you know that comes from Xander, the way her friends are, as well as the men she deals with. With Frankie/ Frances, while Xander and many others being absent affects them, it isn’t known to what extent. Unlike their sisters, they don’t have their heart on their sleeve and are consistently verbal about how they feel. At most, it is once a season they directly say something.

This season, you can assume the poem and participating in “Shake It Out” was directed at Sam, but who knows? Frankie is the last intriguing character and with that comes the question whether killing that enigmatic mystique wouldn’t mean so much getting to know them but feel more like a dissection? Since, unlike the others, Frankie doesn’t feel still yet. The character is still evolving, even three years in, and hasn’t really settled into a person Sam, or even we, really know.

Which, for most shows, that would be an issue. Yet, for Better Things, it allows you into Sam’s mind and into that of a parent who sees their kid on a fairly regular basis and yet still feel like this person is a stranger to them. No matter how nice you are, how you reach out, or how you try to be there for them.

On The Fence

David

I think we can all agree this thing with David is unhealthy and unethical. Yes, she is no longer his patient, but it feels like he is taken advantage of what he learned when she was to emotional to keep her ensnared. Leading to this twisted relationship that makes it seem like he is trying to foster dependency to live out this teenaged fantasy he had.

Which is honestly upsetting for the way Frankie blows up at Sam, we’re starting to see Sam do that with her friends. All because David couldn’t do his job and wouldn’t cut Sam off when he realized he has feelings for her and is in an opportune position.

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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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