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‘The Righteous Gemstones’ S2E4 Recap: Which Is Worse—An Absent Father Or An Angry One?

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‘The Righteous Gemstones’ S2E4 Recap: Which Is Worse—An Absent Father Or An Angry One?
From left: Cassidy Freeman, Danny McBride, Tim Baltz, and Edi Patterson Ryan Green/HBO

This week’s Righteous Gemstones offers good laughs but better drama, as a large family gathering leads to a proportional explosion of petty conflicts. On the comedic side, it’s a showcase for the talents of Edi Patterson, who in addition to her role as Judy Gemstone also wrote this episode with Danny McBride and John Carcieri. Dramatically, we’re once again treated to a strong performance from John Goodman as Eli, who sinks deeper into brooding and despair. And, straddling both sides of the emotional spectrum, we have the welcome return of Walton Goggins as Baby Billy Freeman, who bookends the episode with twin acts of cowardice.

The episode opens with a flashback to 1993, where Baby Billy offers to buy his young son Harmon (Jeremy T. Thomas) any Christmas gift he chooses from their local mall. After Harmon picks out a cat from a pet shop, Baby Billy embraces his son, tells him he loves him, and walks out of his life. As he did last season, Goggins portrays Baby Billy with remarkable sensitivity. His love for his son comes across as entirely real, and for a moment it’s possible to sympathize with this deadbeat dad who feels as if staying with his son would only mean failing the child. But that sympathy is short-lived. The final shots of the teaser are from Harmon’s point of view as he watches his father disappear into a crowd of shoppers, a painful memory in the making.

After the opening titles we return to the present day, where Judy reluctantly accompanies her husband BJ (Tim Baltz) to greet her in-laws. BJ’s parents and sister KJ (Lily Sullivan) are in town to celebrate BJ’s baptism, but Judy finds them boring and suspicious because A) they’re agnostic secular humanists, and B) Judy cannot recognize a healthy family dynamic when she sees one. Judy believes that BJ’s baptism should mark his true initiation into the Gemstone family, after which he shouldn’t need his old family anymore. In case her feelings aren’t clear, she sings an original song during the ceremony itself with lyrics that spell them out.

All of the Gemstone kids are emotionally stunted by their upbringing, but Judy seems to have gotten the worst of it, and it’s easy to trace how. Jesse and Kelvin (Adam Devine) are just as spoiled, but they’ve both been entrusted with responsibility in the Gemstones’ church. No one has ever expected anything from Judy, who is both the middle child and the only daughter in a rigidly patriarchal subculture. Judy’s schoolyard perspective on sexuality is almost understandable considering she likely received zero formal sexual education whatsoever and learned most of what she knows secondhand from her older brother. Unlike Jesse or Kelvin, she has no friends, no entourage, and apparently no relationships with other women. Above all, Judy is a narcissist, unwilling to share. She’s intensely possessive of BJ (which BJ usually enjoys), but his family represents a threat to her ownership, so she does everything she can to convince him that they’re a toxic influence to be removed. 

1643015421 363 ‘The Righteous Gemstones S2E4 Recap Which Is Worse—An Absent Father
Adam Devine as Kelvin Ryan Green/ HBO

Meanwhile, Jesse (Danny McBride) and Amber (Cassidy Freeman) meet up with their new friends Lyle (Eric André) and Lindy Lissons (Jessica Lowe) and break the news that they don’t have the $10 million to invest in their timeshare community. Unsurprisingly, their friendship is conditional on the business venture and the Lissons storm off. Jesse is left dejected and angry at his father for not backing his real estate deal. At the same time, Eli cancels Kelvin’s scheduled trip to Israel with his God Squad, forcing him to attend BJ’s baptism and reception. As an added indignity, the God Squad gets bounced at the door and has to wait outside the party while Keefe (Tony Cavalero) smuggles them low-carb snacks from the buffet. Both boys feel that their agency is under attack and arrive at the baptism primed to explode.

Eli is in no mood for their nonsense. He sees the baptism as the sham it is, something that Judy muscled BJ into in a bid to win him family acceptance—as well as a belated, expensive wedding reception, since the pair eloped at Disney World. But if Eli’s accustomed to being everyone’s piggy bank, his emotional low is a different story. His reunion with his old friend Junior went soured instantly; his attempts at dating have led to humiliation and hostility from his children. After what he sees as a lifetime of good works, must he spend his golden years alone and unloved? Must everyone see him as an opportunity to be exploited? When Jesse, Kelvin, and Judy (well, technically BJ) each publicly disrespect him at the baptism, Eli finally snaps. Kelvin picks the fight, but Eli finishes it in the same fashion that he punished people back in his Maniac Kid days, by breaking his thumbs.

Baby Billy, on the other hand, has come to the baptism claiming that his life is on the upswing. His boasts of newfound financial success may not be trustworthy, but his young wife Tiffany (Valyn Hall) is definitely pregnant and due to give birth any minute. Baby Billy seems keen to accept this blessing into his life, but a conversation with Eli reminds him of his past failings as a father and he wanders off alone to sulk. When the party has ended, Tiffany is left waiting for him to return with the snacks she asked for, but we know he isn’t coming back. He’s already miles away, halfway home to North Carolina. Ever Eli’s opposite, Baby Billy is offered a second chance at love and family and runs from it.

Still looking to spite Eli, Jesse and Amber steal his party bus back to the compound, but their journey home is halted by a mechanical problem. Jesse and Amber await repairs at a nearby gas station and are shocked when a group of motorcyclists arrive at the station, brandish automatic weapons, and unload four clips of ammunition into their bus. Both survive the attack, but we’re left to wonder who’s behind this well-coordinated assassination attempt. The obvious answer is Junior, who’s been set up as the season’s antagonist and who declared last week that if Eli wouldn’t be his friend, he’d be his enemy. Junior himself does not appear in this episode, instead sending one of his wrestlers (James Preston Rogers) to demand an apology from Eli. But, truth be told, jumping immediately from smashing a tomato on Eli’s windshield to ordering an expensive professional hit seems a bit far-fetched. Might someone else be responsible? Say, someone who stands to gain $10 million if Jesse inherits the family fortune?

We’ll have to wait at least a few weeks to find out, as the next episode is entitled “Interlude II,” evidently a palette-cleansing flashback between the first and second halves of the season.

‘The Righteous Gemstones’ S2E4 Recap: Which Is Worse—An Absent Father Or An Angry One?

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More than 5,000 fans support new women’s soccer club in inaugural match

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More than 5,000 fans support new women’s soccer club in inaugural match

Minnesota Aurora president Andrea Yoch stood at the gates of TCO Stadium and watched fans of the new pre-professional women’s soccer team stream in for their inaugural match about an hour before kickoff Thursday.

“We just made this up,” Yoch said through a smile and in an orange romper and light green coat to match Aurora’s vibrant colors.

About 15 minutes before kickoff, Gene Wilder’s “Pure Imagination” played on the stadium’s speakers, and a community-owned club created out of the pandemic came to fruition with an announced crowd of 5,219 supporting the USL Women’s League.

Thursday’s attendance in Minnesota was on par with the average of seven pro-level National Women’s Soccer League crowds this season, including in Louisville, Seattle, San Diego, North Carolina, Orlando, Chicago and New Jersey.

Aurora benefited from a Green Bay Glory own goal early in the second half and Minnesota gave up an equalizing goal in the 89th minute to settle for a 1-1 draw.

Aurora, which has 3,500 season ticket holders, also took up another Minnesota soccer tradition: waiving scarves during corner kicks, a mainstay at Minnesota United games for years.

The crowd, which included MNUFC center back Michael Boxall, filled the stands at the Vikings’ field and lined the concourses, with the merchandise tent having lines for all 90 minutes.

Aurora’s supporters section chanted “No Glory” toward Green Bay and supported its own side in song. But there was also a small chorus of young girls chanting, “Let’s go, Aurora. Let’s go!” from the stadium’s grassy hill. On the concourse, another group of young girls were running around and one was overheard saying, “Sarah is my favorite.”

That was toward Aurora’s famous goalkeeper Sarah Fuller, showing signs of support were big and small.

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Yankees bats awake late in 7-2 win over Rays

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Yankees bats awake late in 7-2 win over Rays

ST. PETERSBURG — Aaron Boone popped out of the dugout in the ninth inning to boos. It was not the Rays fans booing, but the large group of Yankees fans. The manager was headed to the mound to get Nestor Cortes, who had just given a leadoff single to Wander Franco—but had been brilliant all night.

Cortes dominated the Rays’ dangerous lineup for eight innings as the Yankees beat the Rays 7-2 at Tropicana Field Thursday night in the first of the four-game series.

The Yankees (32-13) have won three straight games and 13 of their last 18. They maintained the best record in baseball and increased their cushion in the American League East to 5.5 games over the Rays (26-18)

Cortes threw eight scoreless innings, but Franco scored on Manuel Margot’s single off Wandy Peralta to charge him with a run. It was his 18th consecutive start allowing three earned runs or less. The 27-year old scattered four  hits, walked one and struck out five for his fourth win of the season. It was just the second time in his career that Cortes pitched into the eighth inning.

Cortes walked Yandy Diaz to lead off the bottom of the first and then gave up a single to Harold Ramirez before getting out of the inning unscathed. Cortes matched scoreless innings with Yarborough, retiring 14 straight Rays. The Yankees most consistent starter this season, Cortes threw 109 pitches and got seven swings and misses, four off his four-seam fastball.

It was just the second time in his career Cortes had gotten through eight innings. He spared a bullpen that has been hit hard recently by injuries.

And gave a lineup that has also been hit by the injury bug a chance to catch up.

The Yankees were no-hit through five innings by Ryan Yarborough, who walked Anthony Rizzo in the first and then retired 14 straight before it unraveled in the sixth. Matt Carpenter, who had arrived in the Yankees clubhouse just hours before, was hit by a pitch, the first base runner since the first, and Marwin Gonzalez’s line drive to center field was the Bombers’ first hit of the night.

Aaron Judge grounded a single—98 miles an hour off the bat—up the middle to bring in the Yankees’ first run. The slugger, playing center field after Aaron Hicks was a late scratch, stole second. Miguel Andujar singled to drive in another and a  second run scored on the Rays’ throwing error on the play.

Isaiah Kiner-Falefa led off the seventh with a walk and scored on a Ralph Garza, Jr. wild pitch. Judge drove in the Yankees’ fifth run on a sacrifice fly with the bases loaded in the ninth. Anthony Rizzo followed with a sharp line drive double that plated two more.

The Yankees signed Carpenter, who exercised his opt-out earlier this week, and immediately brought him into the fold with uncertainty about DJ LeMahieu, Josh Donaldson and Giancarlo Stanton on the injured list.

LeMahieu, who had a cortisone shot in his wrist, was still out of the lineup and he tried hitting and took balls at third base before Thursday night’s game. He said the shot had not yet helped enough. The Yankees are also without Josh Donaldson, who is on the COVID-19 list but has not tested positive for the coronavirus. The third baseman is back in New York dealing with a respiratory illness. He is also facing a possible one-game suspension after his altercation with White Sox shortstop Tim Anderson, whom he repeatedly called “Jackie,” in reference to Jackie Robinson. Donaldson issued a statement saying that he and Anderson, who is Black and interpreted the comments as racist, have a mutual understanding. Donaldson is appealing the league’s discipline.

Thursday night, the Yankees were just trying to get through their first series against the always tough Rays. It is also the first of a streak in which the Bombers will play 10 out of 13 games against teams with a winning record, after facing the perpetually rebuilding Orioles seven out of the last 10.

Carpenter, signed by the Yankees after opting out of his minor league deal with the Rangers last week, arrived at the visitors’ clubhouse about an hour and a half before first pitch and minutes before he was hustled off to the hitters’ meeting. The three-time All-Star and former Cardinal was rushed into the lineup less than an hour before first pitch when Hicks was scratched with tightness in his right hamstring.

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Jessica Gelt: Why The Onion’s take on the Uvalde shooting captures every parent’s worst nightmare

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Jessica Gelt: Why The Onion’s take on the Uvalde shooting captures every parent’s worst nightmare

It’s the yellow caution tape that gets to me when I look at the pictures tweeted by the satirical website The Onion in the wake of the massacre at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, this week. Emblazoned with the words “Sheriff’s Line Do Not Cross,” the yellow tape is draped around the schoolyard after an 18-year-old man gunned down 19 small children who had recently finished their honor-roll ceremony.

Yellow is a bright, cheery color. It’s one of my 6-year-old daughter’s favorites. It’s the color of the sun, of sunflowers, of balloons and candy. It’s the color of her hair — soft and fine as corn silk.

On police tape, however, yellow is the color of every parent’s worst nightmare: that their child’s school became the target of yet another mass shooting, and that maybe their precious baby has been violently murdered.

It’s a fear we have lived with since the unthinkable tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary in 2012, after which absolutely nothing was done to effect change when it comes to guns in America. In fact, since 20 children were shot down in cold blood in Newtown, Connecticut, gun laws have actually loosened in this country. The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to soon deliver a decision undoing a long-standing New York law that forbids people from carrying guns in public without first demonstrating a “special need” for self-defense.

Wednesday morning, The Onion devoted its entire home page to dozens of images from mass shootings dating back to 2014, accompanied by the same devastating headline: “‘No Way To Prevent This,’ Says Only Nation Where This Regularly Happens.”

The picture at the very top is the one of Robb Elementary in Uvalde, with the yellow tape circling a schoolyard that should have been filled with joyful kids. The image made the rounds across Twitter and trended rapidly. The Onion has a history of cutting to the chase when it comes to moments of extreme national tragedy in the way that only razor-sharp satire can. No one looking at it was laughing, though. Especially not parents, for whom that specific set of signifiers has a particularly horrific resonance.

The image of yellow tape, paired with police cars, sirens flashing, in front of a school — that’s the image that fills parents with the kind of grief they can taste. The kind that keeps them up at night, wondering if one day they too will have to face such a scene at their child’s school.

The crushing news out of Uvalde came about an hour before I was due to pick up my 6-year-old and her best friend from kindergarten. I could not get to the elementary school fast enough. My heart pounded, and I wiped at my eyes because I couldn’t see through my tears to drive. The radio didn’t help, as the scope and scale of the carnage in Texas began to crystallize. I was not alone in my race to get to my child. The schoolyard was filled with parents who had shown up early, who could not wait to wrap arms around their babies. Our worried, pained eyes met as we hustled toward the pickup line. But we didn’t speak. We couldn’t. What would we say?

The bell rang, and children burst forth from the school doors — yelling and laughing, chasing one another and running to their waiting parents. Little kids full of giggles and questions, wearing clothes dirty from play, shoelaces untied, hair messy, faces caked in food, bearing lopsided smiles.

As we walked back to the car, my daughter and her friend chattered on about the dance party they had in school and the glow-in-the-dark bracelets they got as a special treat. They wore paper crowns that they made in art class, decorated with tender kid drawings: smiling faces, stick arms, flowers and birds.

The worry and fear were more palpable Wednesday morning, as parents who had spent the night stewing in this new horror were further processing its vast implications — and realizing that this grief was theirs to shoulder forever, maybe, unless actual change was made in favor of common-sense gun legislation.

This week had been spirit week at Robb Elementary, and Tuesday was foot loose and fancy-free day, with the kids encouraged to wear their fanciest footwear. We parents had to grapple with images of tiny bodies in glittery, fabulous shoes — shoes that made the morning fun and exciting to kids who were still learning to read. I thought about that as I put my daughter’s feet into her own glittery shoes as we got ready for school. They are the kind that light up when she runs. She finds so much joy in those shoes. Because little kids can find joy in anything.

I thought about not taking my daughter to school this morning. But I did. And I wasn’t alone. We parents got up and did it again. As we walked toward the main doors, we held our children’s hands a bit more tightly. Many parents got down on their knees at the school gate and hugged their kids longer than usual. Our eyes still filled with worry. We were not yet ready to speak.

I haven’t been able to stop thinking about a conversation I had with my daughter a few nights ago, just before the nightmare in Uvalde. I had just put her to bed, when she got up again and came timidly into my room. She said two things were “concerning her.”

She asked if dying meant she would never imagine anything again. I said that was likely the case. I told her everyone dies. That her daddy would die one day, that I would and that she would too. But, I said, she didn’t have to worry about that for a long, long time.

She asked how people die. I told her it happens when our hearts stop beating — from sickness, or accidents, or when we are very, very old.

She nodded and then said, “Maybe if I die, I’ll come back as a little baby somewhere else.”

“Maybe,” I said. “Some people believe that. Your grandma Boo always said she would come back as a yellow butterfly. That’s why when we see yellow butterflies, we think of her.”

She thought about this for a moment.

“I’m going to come back as a black and white cat,” she said. “And I’m going to show up at your door, and you’ll know it’s me. I’ll push up against your door, and I won’t go.”

I liked the image of the cat, but I didn’t at all like the idea that I would still be around when she was not.

I told her, “Oh, sweetheart, I hope I’ll be long gone before then.”

“What do you mean?” she asked.

I said, “I hope I die before you. Mamas should die before their babies.”

“Most mamas and daddies stay alive until their babies are gone,” she said.

I could tell she needed me to say I’d never leave her, so I said, “OK, deal. I’m not going anywhere, as long as you promise not to either.”

“Deal,” she said.

I kissed her and tucked her back in. Then I went to my room and cried my eyes out.

Parents aren’t supposed to lose their babies. We aren’t supposed to show up at school to be confronted by the shock and horror of yellow tape and police cars on a clear blue day just before summer vacation is about to begin. We aren’t supposed to digest one mass shooting after another after another, always hoping that the bullets won’t one day fly closer to home.

And we should never have learned to accept the standard line after such a tragedy occurs, the one currently blanketing The Onion’s homepage in a heart-shattering tableau of yellow tape and emergency vehicles. Like a relentless funeral dirge, it reads: “‘No Way To Prevent This,’ Says Only Nation Where This Regularly Happens.”

Jessica Gelt writes for the Los Angeles Times.

 

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