This Baskets review contains spoilers.
Baskets Season 3 Episode 6
With all the silliness going on, it’s easy to forget how well Baskets functions as a slice-of-life show. But many episodes have a sleepy tone that suits the suburban setting of Bakersfield. Despite all the madcap clown nonsense, there’s a sense that this series is ultimately all about average Americans just trying to get by.
It’s demonstrated in how the series regularly shifts its focus to side characters who have more normal lives than the Baskets family and their rodeo, but it’s also just in how the show sometimes chooses to tell its stories. Less-than-dramatic events unfold lethargically with only a few core scenes to fill an episode’s entire running time. That’s what happens in “Thanksgiving.” It’s slow, gentle, and low-stakes, but that’s a very comfortable place for Baskets and it makes for a lovely little episode.
The previous Baskets, in which the whole family fought and Dale decided he was going to sue his mom, was pretty devastating, so a little levity was warranted. This one starts out seeming like it’s going to be impossibly sad with Christine alone at home on Thanksgiving. But then the French clowns (or “cloons”) that Chip tried to fly over for the opera two episodes ago show up at Christine’s home. In one of the best moments, Christine at first thinks they’re there to rob her (“The silverware you can have because it’s a bitch to clean”), but eventually realizes who they are and they then spend an unconventional Thanksgiving together.
Again, this is a slice-of-life episode; it’s almost structureless and feels like a weird little indie film. All that happens is Chip leaves to have Thanksgiving with Martha, but it’s awful, so he goes back home and finds Christine with his French clown friends. Christine tries some weed the clowns are smoking (Chip is hilariously against it: “You’re weird enough, mom, don’t do that”) and then they all go to Arby’s.
The only thing I don’t love about it is the bit at Martha’s house. It’s funny, but we don’t get to know Martha’s parents all that well (even though you’d think there’d be loads of comedy to be mined there). The scene is so short it just feels like a random, unimportant aside. It was probably written mostly as an excuse to get Chip out of the house while his mom gets to know his French clown friends and it doesn’t do much more than that, unfortunately.
It’s a great episode otherwise. With the help of the French clowns, Christine and Chip get over their rodeo rift. The scenes with all of them sitting around chatting are naturalistic (again, that indie film vibe Baskets does oddly well). It feels as though they were partially adlibbed with characters occasionally stepping on each other’s lines in a realistically conversational way.
Chip also gets an unexpected clown rebirth as the French clowns tell him his Renoir clown act comes off like a parody of a French stereotype, so, together, they burn his Renoir outfit. With Christine accepting she’s lost the rodeo and Chip back to square one in clowning, this is something of a quiet reset for Baskets, which is interesting because of how casually and suddenly it happened.
The episode feels sort of structureless but there are small payoffs along the way. The arrival of the French clowns is already a payoff planted two episodes back, but there’s an awkward catharsis as well when the clowns find the hymns Christine had been writing for the Korean Baptist church and then perform them for her. Also, everything culminates with a Thanksgiving feast at Arby’s. Baskets always does a fantastic job of finding comfort in the mundanity of modern America. Over the course of the series they’ve hilariously managed to turn the Bakersfield Arby’s into something of a sacred location. Here, it brilliantly closes out this weird, sweet Baskets Thanksgiving.