There were so many lessons this week on Side Order of Life. For example, did you know that some people charge more than a mortgage payment for a purse? And what’s more, that some people pay it? Insane. We also learned that chemo makes you cranky; that in the battle between hunger and nausea, puking tends to win; and that some folks don’t pay attention to the Rules of Etiquette for Dealing with the Newly Dumped. Seriously, Becca: It’s called timing. Look into it. Also, we learning that Jenny’s mom is an evil, self-involved harpy, and suddenly, some of Jenny’s neuroses start to make more sense. Go figure.

Spoilers ahead.

Our wacky hijinks this week involve high-priced retail items talking to Jenny, saying how much happier she’d be if she would just whip out her credit card and plunked down more than my mortgage on an accessory. A little retail therapy can be helpful, but $1,800 for a purse? Dear god. I’m firmly with Vivy on this one (and did we already know she was a financial planner, or is this the first we’ve heard of Vivy’s job?). However, Vivy singling Jenny out for public ridicule in her money management group was over the line — but hey, that’s the cancer talking! Vivy can officially get away with anything.

Actually, seeing Vivy behaving badly was a nice change from seeing her be brave and whirl around like a force of nature. I’m glad the writers finally let Vivy be depressed, and scared, and downright cranky. Yes, it’s possible to take something horrible happening to you and making it a turning point for your life, but Vivy  doesn’t need to become some sort of patron saint of overcoming adversity, or turning lemons into lemonade, or turning radiation target marks into life-affirming tattoos. Seeing her throw up and feel miserable and be scared and bitter makes her more real.

Granted, this is a dramedy that traffics in kooky visions, so reality may be a bit much to ask. Jenny’s assignment this week is to interview and photograph a hunky carpenter who found a lost diary of F. Scott Fitzgerald in a thrift-store desk. He’s hoping to auction it off for a bucket or two of cash. Jenny’s Magical Camera shows Hunky Carpenter holding the diary with an attractive woman, so Jenny decides it’s her mission to bring them together, The woman turns out to be an academic researching F. Scott and Zelda’s relationship — it couldn’t have been all bad, right? Jenny wants Hunky Carpenter to give Attractive Academic a chance to read the diary, but he’s afraid something would happen to it. (This from a man who’s keeping it in a box in his unguarded workshop.) He sells it for $800,000 to a complete tool of a movie producer who will never read it or let anyone see it. But fear not! Hunky Carpenter read the diary, and he can talk about it with Attractive Academic! Because the memory of a Hunky Carpenter who skimmed a book totally counts as a primary source suitable for academic publications, right? Hunky Carpenter and Attractive Academic end up bonding over orphanages, and a beautiful relationship blossoms. Or something.

Much more interesting is the insight we get into Jenny’s family. Her mom, Margot, is kind of a mess. When she first appeared in Jenny’s apartment with a shirtless hunk, I was sure this was one of Jenny’s hallucinations. Nope. Margot really was using Jenny’s place as a crash pad for sex with younger men who are not her husband, even though she’s still married to Jenny’s dad. Apparently, they’d rather stay married and make each other miserable than get divorced and go out into the unknown. Suddenly, Jenny dumping Ian seems like a really good thing — she may have gone about it badly, but at least she had the guts to stop things before she turned into her mother. Margot is all about what looks good, keeping up appearances. Even when Jenny finally yells at her and tries to get her to pay attention to what she’s actually saying, Margot is really thinking about the status-symbol It-bag Jenny donated to charity. (Although really, Jenny — if you’re drowning in credit card debt, perhaps you should have sold the purse on eBay and recouped some of the cash you spent, hmm?)

As for the rest, Ian continues to be the most appealing person on the show — he still wants to help Vivy, he gracefully deflects Becca when she asks him out (and yes, Becca, it’s very much too soon to be making dates with the guy who just found out he wasn’t getting married. Sheesh!), and he shows a spine when Jenny gets upset with him being there when she visits Vivy. Sorry, Jenny, but you basically broke up with him, with no real warning — he gets to be the aggrieved party. He’s allowed to try to hate you for a little while. You just have to suck it up and deal.

Oh, there’s also a little near-miss with the Mystery Voice (and by the way, a reader finally clued me in to who he is — do you want to know?), who is picking up takeout at a restaurant where Jenny is dining alone (because there are so few restaurants in Los Angeles, you know.) He wants to meet Jenny face-to-face. Good idea, or disaster waiting to happen? We may find out next week.

Posted by:Sarah Jersild