Christine puts on an opera at the rodeo, with mixed results.
This Baskets review contains spoilers.
A plotline that’s been running through all the episodes this season thus far is that Christine’s acquisition of the rodeo is causing her to lose her friends. I’ve not been terribly invested in this plot, probably in part because an old lady bridge club friend group is so far removed from my own experience I can’t find much to relate to. Also, Christine’s friends are catty jerks. They look down on her for buying an unsophisticated business, talk behind her back, and passive-aggressively condescend to her. Losing them as friends just doesn’t seem like a big deal because, well, they’re not very nice.
However, it’s obviously a huge deal for Christine. As a person gets older, it only gets more difficult to forge new friendships, so it only makes sense she’d want to cling to the friends she still has, even if they’re not very good ones.
“A Night at the Opera” marks the apex of Christine’s friendship drama. Feeling slighted by the group taking a replacement friend to a Jazz Under the Stars event, she cooks up a night of opera at the rodeo (under the stars) to reingratiate herself with the group while simultaneously demonstrating she can be classy. It feels a little bit like a tangent, introducing a new conflict on top of what’s already there (I mean, they just got the rodeo open and Chip still hasn’t hired any clowns). But it’s not as out of left field as it seems, since Christine’s problems with her friends built to this point. It also makes sense for Christine’s character. She’s been bogged down by all this rodeo management stuff and it’s very much like her to unwind by splurging on a special night.
However, the episode still plays it mostly like Christine does this to appease her friends. Near the end, she claims she’s realized that, actually, she did it for herself, but the events of the episode don’t really provide evidence of that. Mostly, she seems to be buttering up the bridge club and showing off for them. True, she invites her boyfriend Ken to the event, which is a just-for-her thing, but the running gag is she keeps forgetting him everywhere and having to drive back to pick him up, so he’s evidently not at the forefront of her mind.
Christine dashing around getting things ready for the opera while repeatedly forgetting Ken is the bulk of “A Night at the Opera” and, unfortunately, it proves to not be very funny or interesting. It’s just kind of tedious.
Luckily, the episode is salvaged by the final act, in which the titular opera takes place. Throughout the episode, Dale is suffering from back problems (at one point he has a goat named Linda walk on his back, which is the sort of cartoonish humor Baskets goes in for sometimes that I don’t love) and he’s also the only one worried about the family finances. This all leads to an inspired sequence of him slo-mo running in agony to stop his mom wasting any more cash as the opera singer hits the crescendo in “Vesti La Giubba” from Pagliacci (aka the only part everybody knows from Pagliacci).
There’s also a few good Martha moments near the end (I am a big Martha fan). Plus, there’s a funny and oddly sweet scene between Chip and the sign spinner (alternately referred to as Sleepy, Sleazy, and Sneezy) that Christine has conscripted to provide added entertainment to the opera. I chuckled at Sleepy/Sleazy/Sneezy describing Christine as “this rather large lady.”
This wasn’t a great episode, but it was elevated quite a bit by its third act. Plus, it worked okay as a setup for what is evidently the next conflict of the series: the return of Christine’s douchey Quiznos franchising brother, Jim.