CHICAGO - Welcome back to "Welcome to Flatch" recaps! This week, a heat-wave induced "Blackout" sends the town scrambling for power and purpose, leading to lizard funerals and frayed nerves all over Flatch. Just starting the show? Here’s our recap of the premiere. Ready to binge? The show’s first season is now streaming on Hulu, and you can watch new episodes On Demand or via FOX Now.
"Welcome to Flatch" is what you might call ‘deceptively laidback.’ For all its approachable ease, it’s also constantly balancing all those wacky hijinks against the innate melancholy of its premise. It’s "Parks and Recreation" mixed with a little bit of "Hillbilly Elegy," exploring the (somewhat) realistic struggles of small-town rural life with a goofy cast of can-do characters. That’s especially clear in "Blackout," the second installment of the show’s second season.
Power outage episodes are nothing new in the world of sitcoms, of course. But this series takes care to specify the reason this is happening in Flatch: That perfect storm resulting from the distance between many rural towns and major utility grids, and heat waves hitting remote areas harder due to climate change.
But the episode itself seems to brush that aside, which makes the ensuing antics ring a bit false. Still, the citizens of Flatch respond to the crisis in their usual way — infighting and bickering, with a surprising burst of emotion at the end of the day. Let’s dig in!
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WELCOME TO FLATCH: L-R: Holmes and Sam Straley in the "Blackout" episode of WELCOME TO FLATCH airing Thursday, Oct. 6 (9:02-9:30 PM ET/PT) on FOX. © 2022 FOX Media LLC. Cr: Brownie Harris/FOX
"Welcome to Flatch" recap: Turn up the heat
Since Flatch’s prodigal daughter/recently divorced realtor Barb Flatch (Jaime Pressly) has bought Shrub’s (Sam Straley) nan’s house, he’s crashing with cousin Kelly (Holmes) — and the novelty has already worn off. Of course, that may also be because she’s still stinging from her dad’s engagement to his new girlfriend, and her mother won’t talk to her as a result.
The rest of the town isn’t faring much better. Everyone’s suffering under their own individual pressure cookers, and not just because of the heat. Barb’s trying to get her life (and her real estate business) back on track in Flatch, but it doesn’t help when her husband’s face is on all their branded water bottles. Cheryl (Aya Cash) and Father Joe (Seann William Scott) are desperate for a night out of the house and away from their time-consuming hobbies. And though Dylan does his best to keep Nadine calm (and neutral on the baby’s gender), she’s being a real mom-zilla over a gender-reveal ice cream cake.
Naturally, the person who has it together the most is Mandy (Krystal Smith), who is, as Destiny’s Child would say, "a survivor." ("But not a survivalist," she clarifies, despite having a bunker full of smoked deer meat at an undisclosed location.)
WELCOME TO FLATCH: Krystal Smith in the "Blackout" episode of WELCOME TO FLATCH airing Thursday, Oct. 6 (9:02-9:30 PM ET/PT) on FOX. © 2022 FOX Media LLC. Cr: Brownie Harris/FOX
And everything boils over when — surprise! — the town’s power grid blows out, and everyone scrambles to get to Father Joe’s church for light, power and a place to store their frozen goods. (It’s also the only place with juice. Thanks, Mandy.) Everyone’s plans are ruined, from Cheryl and Joe’s date night to Nadine’s gender-reveal party. And what’s worse, Shrub left his years-dead pet lizard Jojo in his Nan’s freezer when she sold the Shrub Hub —and he must be melting!
"Welcome to Flatch" recap: Broken window theory
Kelly begrudgingly helps Shrub break into his Nan’s old house (which is also Barb’s current house) via a broken window lock, and they bring the lizard back to the church. You see, Shrub froze his beloved lizard after he died in the hopes that future technology could bring him back. (But as Kelly alludes, it’s probably more about keeping a piece of his Nan alive in his heart. What a softie.)
But when they sneak back into the church, everyone’s already at each other’s throats — blame it on the heat, the close quarters and the fact that Joe’s homemade pumpkin ale has the same approximate ABV as lighter fluid. Nadine is melting about as quickly as her ice-cream cake, and the impromptu gender reveal party games aren’t really cutting the mustard for the increasingly agitated crowd. And the news that Shrub cannot, in fact, put his dead lizard in the freezer alongside everyone’s medications is a bit of a blow.
This is where Kelly, who until now has been desperate to pawn the clingy Shrub off on someone else all week, steps up to the plate. They should take Nadine’s sad-party energy and turn it into a huge blowout for Jojo’s last day on Earth!
"One last rager for the king of all lizards!" Shrub screams, and we get a delightful, early-’90s skate video-esque montage as they take Jojo through the party photo booth and the "lizard luge," then right to the top of the ice cream cake. (Nadine’s not happy about that last part, but at least Dylan learns they’ve having a boy — which he hoots and hollers about despite feigning indifference up before.)
WELCOME TO FLATCH: Taylor Ortega in the "Blackout" episode of WELCOME TO FLATCH airing Thursday, Oct. 6 (9:02-9:30 PM ET/PT) on FOX. © 2022 FOX Media LLC. Cr: Brownie Harris/FOX
"Welcome to Flatch" recap: There’s got to be a morning after
This leads to a surprisingly touching moment between Kelly and Barb, the two commiserating about the men in their lives and how they’ve driven them crazy. (It takes a second for Barb to figure out that Shrub is Kelly’s cousin, not husband, but she’s new, so all’s forgiven.) But Barb’s bravery in trying to do things on her own ("When life gives you lemons, you learn how to fix a window") gives Kelly the courage she needs to tell Shrub he needs to find his own place.
"We women have to stick up for ourselves," Barb tells Kelly. "Because nobody else will."
We haven’t spent much time getting to know Barb so far — maybe because she’s stepping in as the new fish-out-of-water character now that Joe and Cheryl have been fully integrated into the town. (Sadly, it seems to be giving Aya Cash and Seann William Scott less to do.) But these moments show promise, setting her up as a mentor figure for Kelly, someone with the confidence that comes from being a big fish in a decidedly small pond.
WELCOME TO FLATCH: Jaime Pressly in the "Blackout" episode of WELCOME TO FLATCH airing Thursday, Oct. 6 (9:02-9:30 PM ET/PT) on FOX. © 2022 FOX Media LLC. Cr: Brownie Harris/FOX
As Shrub finally admits it's time to bury Jojo (and that he’s been dying to move out of Kelly’s house for weeks, just didn’t have the heart to tell her), "Blackout" shows us a town that's willing (if reluctantly) to get along amid disaster. Sure, Cheryl and Joe have a lot to work out, and Len still refuses to talk to red-headed women. But maybe this new status quo will lead to a prosperous era for our beloved Flatchians.
"Welcome to Flatch" airs Thursdays on FOX. Recaps run weekly.
About the writer: Clint Worthington is a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association. He is the founder and editor-in-chief of The Spool, and a Senior Writer at Consequence. You can find his other work at Vulture, Nerdist, RogerEbert.com, and elsewhere.
Your next binge: The original "Shameless," streaming free on Tubi
"Shameless": Before "Shamless" was a hit Showtime series starring Emmy Rossum and William H. Macy, it was a British dramedy featuring (among others) a young James McAvoy. Set on the fictional Chatsworth council estate in Manchester, "Shameless" chronicles the lives of the Gallagher family and their neighbors, zeroing in on the nuances of British working-class culture. Frank Gallagher (David Threlfall) is an alcoholic single dad trying (and mostly failing) to raise his six kids right. Instead it’s his eldest daughter Fiona (Anne-Marie Duff) who actually keeps things in order. "Shameless" deploys such a unique tone that it even managed to win both Best Drama Series at the BAFTA TV Awards and Best TV Comedy Drama at the British Comedy Awards. Rated TV-MA. 11 seasons, 139 episodes. Also featuring Rebecca Atkinson, Alice Barry.
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