As we start our last episode of the season, everyone is putting up a good front, but covering up a deep well of anxiety. There is some hope that Dr Cora Wolf will come through with a cure. Eric has put together a background reel to introduce us to the doctor.
Dr Wolf is a genius who was a prodigy. She was working for the CDC when she came across her first zombie case. The subject had murdered and eaten his entire family, and partially eaten two hikers. Her research led her to believe the condition was caused by an unknown virus, but the rest of the staff at the CDC didn’t believe her. She was ridiculed and fired. Dr Wolf started her own biotech company to search for a cure.
Sheila is still worried about what will happen if she ends up randomly murdering people and Joel needs to put her down. She wants to play a game where he tells her how he’d kill her, sort of like f*ck, marry, kill. Joel knows that, no matter what, this isn’t going to go well for him. He tells her he’d bash her head in with a baseball bat, like they do in zombie movies. Sheila is appalled. Just like Joel feared, wrong answer. Sheila wants him to make it special, maybe even romantic. He should kiss her, then put a silk pillow over her face, and shoot her with a pearl-handled revolver. It’s a nice picture for an assisted suicide, but I don’t know if it would work with a feral zombie. Maybe Joel could just bedazzle the bat.
Dr Wolf arrives, and immediately hugs Sheila. Except she’s not sure how to hug. The doctor examines Sheila and determines that she is indeed dead. Dr Wolf also brought the ancient Serbian book. It’s taken her many years to convert the formula for use with modern ingredients. The cure always works, but it’s not actually a cure. All it does is halt the undead person’s deterioration where it is. It has to be given before they get too aggressive. And Sheila’s getting more aggressive all the time.
Later, in bed, Sheila bites Joel’s finger without even realizing that she’s doing it. She doesn’t stop until he specifically tells her to. She didn’t break the skin though. Dr Wolf says it means she may be entering a new, more feral stage, involving a progression from “That was a little rude,” to “Run!”
Dr Wolf can have almost all of the ingredients for the cure formula there in two days, but she needs a full-blooded Serbian to collect bile from. Medieval Serbians developed intestinal flora that resisted the virus. Her normal guy is on vacation. Joel realizes that the Baka is Serbian. He and Sheila will visit her and try to get her to vomit.
Dr Wolf says she’s only used the formula on rats, but it should work on Sheila, as long as she hasn’t gone full feral before they administer it. Joel rants a little and storms out in frustration. Every time he thinks he’s made progress on this problem, it crashes down around him. Sheila tells the doctor that Joel’s plan to put her down is to bash her with a baseball bat. Dr Wolf says that when she has to put down a rat, she dims the lights, puts on Mozart, gets them high on nitrous oxide, and drives a tiny mint flavored toothpick into their brains. I’m sure the rats appreciate having minty fresh brains as they giggle themselves to death. Sheila would rather have Dr Wolf kill her than Joel.
Dr Wolf and Eric have set up shop in the kitchen. They are working together so smoothly that they are finishing each other’s sentences. Abby wants to help, but Dr Wolf is suspicious of her. She sends Abby out for lunch. Everyone always underestimates Abby. She may not be book smart, but she has common sense and is a quick thinker in a crisis. She’d be a much better criminal mastermind than her parents.
Abby stares at the snack shelves at the store until Ramona comes to help her. Ramona helps Abby find her truth just as she helped Joel earlier in the season. All of the crazy things Abby’s been doing haven’t been helping her feel better. She needs to stop focusing on herself, and start focusing on helping others.
Joel and Sheila have decided to get the Baka drunk to make her throw up, even though Sheila wanted to take her to ride the roller coaster at Magic Mountain. Baka isn’t impressed by the bucket they bring her, but the Serbian liquor is a big hit.
Baka and Sheila are happily drinking shots when they are interrupted by Principal Novak, who has taken a mental health day from school. Baka says he has a weak mind. Novak says she’s a terrible roommate. He says he’s calling the police and storms out. There’s a lot of storming out happening this episode.
Baka says she’s had enough to drink and passes out. Sheila has an idea that will bring Magic Mountain to Baka.
Dr Wolf completes the first stage of the formula. She’s not sure if it’s safe, so Abby puts her new philosophy into effect and tests it on herself. She pretends to go into convulsions about five times to fool the doctor and Eric. It was predictable, but funny, the first time. Then she and the show milked it for way too long. This show is usually better than that. The episode is a little short as it is. Was the running time really too short to begin with, so they kept every take of the convulsion fake out?
Sheila and Joel are spinning Baka in an office chair with the bucket strapped to her face to try to get her to throw up. Sheila mentions the party they’re missing that was going to have a margarita fountain. Joel snarks back in his usual tone. Sheila takes it personally, and decides that his frustration with the situation means that he resents her. Honey, nobody would be happy to spend the day trying force someone to vomit. It’s proof that he loves you, not the other way around. Some grumbling seems reasonable.
But Sheila is moving beyond reason. She attacks him from behind, jumping on his back, then shoving him around the room and throwing furniture at him. She yells at him about all the things they’ll never be able to do again because of the limitations her zombism puts on their lives, and how much he must resent her for it. Joel tries to keep himself together and reel her back in, telling her the positive side of everything she yells at him. Sheila trashes the Baka’s living room, waking her up in the process.
Joel eventually gives up trying to calm Sheila down and realizes that she’s going to seriously injure or kill him soon if he doesn’t defend himself. He picks up a broken a chair leg and brandishes it like a bat. At that point, he admits that their new lifestyle is hard on him, and the thing that’s kept him going was the promise of a cure and life going back to normal. Now even that has been taken away. But he’s going to keep going, because he doesn’t want to be without her. Sheila apologizes for attacking Joel. She promises to try superhard not to do that again and to make their marriage and new lives work.
They’re just about to kiss and seal the deal when the police knock on the door and Baka feels nauseous. Joel sends Sheila out the back door, but he stays in case Baka finally vomits. He’s encouraging Baka when the police come in and taze him.
We don’t hear what Joel tells the police, but it’s enough to get him sent for a psych evaluation. We see Joel with the psychiatrist, telling him about how much more exciting the last three weeks have been, and that sometimes he thinks he was the dead one. But otherwise, they’re just a normal Santa Clarita family. Then the psych orderlies come to take Joel away, presumably to admit him for observation.
Sheila goes home and gives Abby a set of sturdy chains. She tells Abby to chain her in the basement.
Dr Wolf clears out when she finds out that Joel’s been arrested. She can’t risk her company in case the police come to the house and find the pieces of Dan in the freezer. She leaves Abby the book and the makeshift lab in the kitchen. Eric continues to work on the formula while Abby looks into hosting a pure Serbian exchange student starting this week.
Sheila tells a client she can’t show a house tomorrow, but she or Joel will probably be free by next week.
I’m sure it will all be fine.
When Sheila was attacking Joel, it was as if her brain was verbally having the argument they needed to have, just a little more aggressively than necessary, while her body went full on zombie.
Abby should try again with the Baka. Maybe bring Eric and take her out someplace nice. Make up some science experiment as a reason why they need the bile. If Eric’s involved, Principal Novak would even buy it.
Bucket should have been part of the title.
The Hammonds should adopt the Baka and Eric. They already have adopted Eric, for the most part. Novak doesn’t appreciate the Baka the way the Hammonds would.
I hope Joel pulls himself back together. They didn’t show him mentioning zombies or the undead or any actual crimes to the police or psychiatrist. Maybe after a nap he’ll feel better.
Eric and Abby really need to find a stable adult to help them. I have no idea who it would be, but I sort of want Principal Novak to find out and become totally understanding, since he grew up hearing Baka’s stories. Loki’s friends were the only other people who I could see being helpful.
Thomas Lennon and Grace Zabriskie have been fantastic as Baka and Novak all season. They are at their best when they are crazily playing off of each other. The entire supporting cast of this show is amazing. They add so much quality to the show and depth to their characters.
Everything Sheila said to Joel about the things they can’t do any more was legitimate, and something that eventually comes up with chronic illness and disabilities. She maybe could have brought it up at a better time. The ill/disabled person is angry with themselves first, and feels betrayed by their own body. Sheila’s aggression was over the top partially because it was also directed at herself, and because she couldn’t imagine that Joel wasn’t at least as resentful as she was. Marriages do frequently break up when a child or one of the partners has a serious change in health status. Sometimes the person who can escape the situation takes the out, while the ill person is forced to learn to cope. If the person who’s ill is a child, one parent is left behind to shoulder the burden alone. Sheila’s deterioration had reached the point where that fear was manifesting as an aggressive attack on Joel.
The part that confused me was that the narrative seemed to agree with Sheila that Joel had been holding back, when it seemed to me that he’d been pretty clear all along that he didn’t like the things he was having to do and was prioritizing finding a cure. Sheila spent the season alternating between trying to accommodate his feelings and brushing them aside. He was also clear that he wanted to do whatever it took to keep her “alive.” She was the one who had a hard time examining things deeply because she was busy doing whatever impulsive thing came into her head. They needed to have that argument, and Sheila needed to hear what Joel said, but it was much more for Sheila’s sake than Joel’s. You can’t blame the guy for being angry that he might have to kill his wife, and not wanting to think of a detailed, romantic plan for how to do it. But he’d already said as much to her.
The way that this show doesn’t shy away from portraying both the ups and the downs in Sheila and Joel’s marriage is unusual in TV today. There are very few TV couples who are in a good relationship, and are allowed to have the struggles they face be something external to their feelings about each other, or their own actions. It’s amazing to see a show have the couple be friends, and work through their problems the way friends do in a bromance movie, and the way couples in real life do. Joel and Sheila’s relationship is so refreshing and real. Making it realistic is all it takes to make it interesting, since real life couples face all kinds of situations that are sad, funny, exciting, dangerous, and sexy, and they figure out how to cope with whatever they face, taking care of each other and bickering and making up along the way. I’ve never understood why buddy stories are popular, but as soon as the pair is also having sex, it becomes a ship, and that’s boring and offensive to some people, including showrunners and writers. A million things have happened to me since I got married. If someone wanted to make a TV show about my life, they could make it a medical show, a crime show, a family show about raising kids in an unusual way, a show about a house with too many pets, a show about sisters from a dysfunctional family who choose different career and romantic paths, or who knows what else. The writers would be very lazy if they needed to break up my marriage for story potential. I’m not a zombie yet, but there’s still time for that choice, too.
If you liked Santa Clarita Diet, you might want to check out Crazyhead, also on Netflix. It’s a British import about a pair of young women who are best fiends and DIY demon hunters. It has a lot of heart and humor, like this show. Where Santa Clarita Diet is a light upper middle-class suburban comedy-horror sitcom, Crazyhead is a funky, quirky, urban, millennial comedy-horror show more in the style of Dr Who or Buffy.
Baka: They bring me bucket. You bring me shame.
Baka: American women only good at one thing. Boohoo about sex with boss.
Sheila: Look, I just don’t want your resentment to build up and come out in an inappropriate way. [Said to Joel while she’s trashing a room and trying to beat him up.]