Side Order of Life is so crazy-making sometimes. It’s got good characters, a reasonably compelling set-up, decent dialog… and then it throws in something so completely unbelievable that it makes me want to scream. Telepathic pigs I can buy — Adelaide was cute, and she had better lines than some of the regulars. But Jenny casually picking up someone’s social security number? The US government welcoming someone who’d been practicing medicine without a license? Anyone wearing peep-toe pumps to a farm? Come on!

Text message from Adelaide: Spoilers ahead.

We begin with an amusing rant from a stressed-out yoga instructor who has nothing but contempt for her students, who are trying to cram an hour’s worth of peace and enlightenment into a 30-minute class. That’s ok, because Vivy and Jenny have nothing but contempt for her and the rest of the class, as they chatter away through the sun salutation. It’s yoga, people — serenity now, dammit!

They get kicked out of class, and Vivy, for once, does not play the cancer card with the instructor. I guess she only uses cancer to blackmail people she knows. Understand: I love Vivy, who is by far the most well-rounded and likeable character on the show (closely followed by Ian, who is still trying to be decent to Jenny even when she’s being kind of bratty toward him.) But she does play the cancer card kind of often. I can see why — hell, it’s the only upside to a horrible disease. Sure, she’s got cancer, but at least now everyone has to listen to what she says, right?

That’s certainly been the way Vivy’s been playing it, until she runs into her oncologist at chemo. The splendidly named Dr. Misty Rains is getting treatment for her own cancer, and she has a heart-to-heart with Vivy about how playing the cancer card just ain’t cool, and you should live your life like cancer is a pimple on your ass. It sounds much better when she says it. Chastened, Vivy apologizes to Jenny for making her problem the biggest one. Except, well, it is. And now I’m contradicting myself. See? Crazy-making.

Anyway, Misty teaches Vivy about being a swell person with cancer, and killer shoes, and not giving up. Then Vivy gives that last lesson right back to Misty when Misty tells Vivy to get a new doctor, since Misty is dying, and Vivy says nuh-uh, let’s take it one week at a time. The upshot: If Misty does succumb, she’s putting her substantial estate into a fund for cancer research, which Vivy will manage. Also, Vivy gets herself a pair of hot Christian Louboutins, and she and Misty sing a little Sinatra. That last bit makes me willing to overlook the fact that a couple of weeks ago, Vivy was chewing Jenny out for spending $1,800 on an It bag, and now she’s spent at least $700 on a pair of (admittedly stunning) shoes.

Jenny’s Story of the Week is about a pig who rescued her owner from a heart attack. Jenny is appalled when Rick switches the assignment from Teddy to Jenny at Stargell’s instigation, and even more appalled when she realizes that people think she’s sleeping with Rick! Oh, Jenny. Yes, it’s insulting for people to assume she got her job because she’s bonking the boss. Yes, it’s ridiculous that her work can’t stand for itself. But surprising? That sort of gossip happens in every workplace, and you two keep hugging in his office. I can’t believe it never occurred to you how things might look. 

The story looks like a dead end until Jenny starts getting text messages from the pig (insert Charlotte’s Web joke here, just like the show) who gives her a lead on the actual hero — a guy named Thomas who works in the local diner. He’s strangely reluctant to talk to Jenny, and when she plugs his Social Security Number (Seriously! Do the writers want us to believe no one in a small town has ever heard of identity theft? Gah!) in a search engine, she figures out he’s an illegal immigrant.

But what, there’s more! Thomas knows plenty about birthing babies — he was an obstetrician in Haiti before he fled — and he’s been acting as the town midwife ever since the day when a someone went into labor in the diner. The hospital is 50  miles away, so he just started delivering babies for everyone around. Thomas doesn’t want to be part of this story since he’s here illegally, practicing medicine illegally, and basically being illegal illegally. But Jenny rallies the town ’round him and everyone writes letters to the INS calling him an "Alien of Exceptional Ability" (sounds like an interstellar gigolo ) and now he gets to stay and hooray! Happy endings. Because the INS is endlessly understanding and works with lightning quickness. (I’m waiting for the follow-up story about Thomas going to jail for practicing medicine without a license, but that comes later, I guess.)

Finally, Jenny’s personal life. She’s still pining for Mysterious Voice Man, who is in the wilds of China and out of cell phone range. Vivy challenges Jenny to accept a date with the first person who asks her. Lots of cute young guys give Jenny the eye, but the first guy to ask her is an old codger named Sam Wainwright who spins a line about telepathy and using the senses and blah blah blah. Jenny agrees to meet him for coffee, he takes her out for a swanky dinner, and he nearly dies of a heart attack. Jenny saves him (with some help from a source on the pig story). Sam continues to pursue her, Sam tells this insane story about eagles losing their feathers and beak and talons and what the hell?, Jenny continues continuing going out with him even though she insists this isn’t dating, and Sam finally dumps her when he determines Jenny isn’t going to put out. Lovely. The lesson of that is… don’t make bets with Vivy? I got nothing.

In other news, Ian and Jenny’s dad bond over a car, Jenny finally gets confirmation that Becca and Ian are sleeping together, Jenny has a hissyfit and gets over it and tells Ian and her dad they can continue their Man Dates, and hey, at least Vivy got a really, really nice pair of shoes.

Posted by:Sarah Jersild