Better Things: Season 3, Episode 9 “The Unknown” – Recap, Review (with Spoilers)

Sam on the beach with arms extended.
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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.


Network
FX
Director(s) Pamela Adlon
Writer(s) Sarah Gubbins
Air Date 4/25/2019

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The Troubles Of Not Feeling Appreciated: Tressa, Mer, Sam

Tressa has long warned Sam of Mer, and with them working together for decades, she figures that Sam would heed her warnings. However, with Mer guiding Sam toward a production heading to Broadway, Sam may privately wonder why Tressa didn’t find such work for her, but she keeps it to herself. But with Sam being about transparency, she brings up Mer in conversation, and that leads to Tressa thinking the writing is on the wall and ending things.

Leading to Sam losing one relationship which, at this point, might be one of her longest. Which is a swift blow since Sam is still dealing with the issues of aging or, specifically, feeling desirable. She gets that when she goes to a Friars event for her father, and see a man older than her dating a 20-year-old. And then comes Mer.

Now, while Sam is strictly dickly, it is hard not to be a bit seduced even if it is someone of the same sex. I mean, have you seen Mer, heard her voice, caught on to her game? Sam is very tempted to give into Mer but keeps her wits about her and instead contacts the doctor. The one who dumped her as a patient since he’d rather Sam be his girlfriend.

Highlights

The Singing At The End & Featured Cast

With hearing Norm Lewis’ solo and seeing Holland Taylor, you’re reminded one of the best things about Better Things is that it only really features young people in the form of Sam’s kids and their friends. Otherwise, it brings on adults, people with quite a bit of experience, and gives them a chance to shine and further push the fact Sam is a legend in her business. Yeah, maybe without a Tony, Oscar, and what have you, but she has been working since she was a child and picked up many friends and a decent reputation in the process.

The Mer Temptation

Mer on a date with Sam.

I don’t know if we’ve seen the last of Mer, but I was definitely hoping Mer would have gotten what she wanted. For while I can understand Sam, and Adlon in extension, may not want to put out the idea women like her must be gay, closeted, or anything like that, it’s hard to deny Sam and Mer’s chemistry. Making her decision to call Dr. Miller seem like her taking the easy way out rather than something which would challenge her identity.

Low Point

Is That The End of Murray Fox?

Sam’s dad appearing has been a weird part of this season. Mostly because it has been barely a sub-plot and between Duke seeing his ghost and Sam meeting with his friends, it just seemed out of place. Not that Murray hasn’t been mentioned in previous seasons but with how consistent his name has come up this one, it made it seem something notable would happen and that has yet to occur. Making you wonder, with him being honored, is that it or will he continue to haunt the show?

On The Fence

This Feels Like A Self-Contained Episode

One of the things you have to constantly wrestler with yourself with as a Better Things fan is knowing a good portion of what you see either will just exist in that episode or won’t be revisited for a while. Sam heading to Broadway with this play? Likely the play may only exist in this episode, or the finale may have Sam tell the kids she has to move to New York. However, there is also a chance, like the movie she was shooting, it just sort of meanders in and out and doesn’t really go any way.

Same goes with the Mer situation. On the one hand, it could be how Tressa’s absence gets a long term explanation. Yet, with Mer and Sam finding themselves coming into the same circle, there is the need to question if this is the last we’ve seen of her.

Presenting the best and worst of Better Things: A lot of it is inherently random. What work will Sam’s agent get her that day, who may she see, and how people may react to anything she says or does is always up in the air. Yet, Adlon and her writers find a way to root the random within the realm of plausibility.

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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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