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The show surprised me this week, I must say. Before you get all excited, it was still the same formulaic black hole of creativity and bastion of reality schmaltz that it usually is, but the producers managed to find a boss who did not, at any point in the episode annoy the piss out of me. Happy Belated Birthday to me!
I’m also just really excited for this bandanna.
Roto Rooter was up for a workplace colonic this week, and the lucky COO this week that gets to bumble around in a lame attempt to learn more about a company he RUNS, is Rick Arquilla, one of our older, and I’m guessing by the air no-nonsenseness that surrounds him, not quite as plucky members.
He’s kind of floppy, but I find that refreshing somehow.
He tells us (not proudly, not arrogantly, just tells us) that Roto Rooter is the Metamucil for about 90% of America’s pipe issues. How is that not a monopoly? He’s responsible for the sales, profit margin, and delivering a high quality product consistently. It’s kind of funny that he looks and sounds completely uninterested in himself. You don’t belong on television, Sir, but it’s a pleasure to watch someone abstain from trying to such a degree.
As we see a montage of a big house and a shiny, happy family, Rick explains that life has been pretty good to him, and he credits his good fortune to luck… or good fortune. However, growing up, his family was considerably less happy, and if these photos are any indication, way less shiny. His dad worked at a factory, hated the job and crawled to the bottom of a bottle of booze every chance he got in an effort to cope.
Rick’s wife Sharon describes his “growing up years” as kinda tough. Articulation is not one of Sharon’s strong suits. If one’s childhood is described as “growing up years,” how would one describe one’s twenties? The “drinking up years”? Because of those years, both Rick and Sharon explain, Rick’s been motivated to be a high achiever in an effort to make a life that is the shiny, happy opposite of what he grew up with. Who thinks it’s a coincidence that Rick is the leader of the top shit removal and clog clearing company in the world? And who thinks it’s a very, very powerful subconscious?
Roto Rooter’s headquartered in Cincinnati (holla!), and thank goodness the boardroom scene in which Rick explains his reasoning for going undercover isn’t a scene at all, but a tiny, tiny montage. *sigh* Good things happen in Ohio. Rick’s on a mission to figure out how to make more money during the recession, because he refuses to see the state of the economy as anything but an opportunity. He steps into a lockeroom that is so gorgeous it’s kind of strange. Also strange that this is where Rick changes from white collar to the bluest of blue collar workers.
Isn’t that wood lovely?
Job 1 sees Rick heading to New Orleans, a “recent acquisition” that’s performing very, very well, despite the recession. I would imagine being under sea level and still repairing from a devastating natural disaster probably results in a whole host of plumbing issues. Dive in, Rick – water’s sewage, but I bet it’s warm.
Rick obviously wasted no time at all dithering about in the home office informing other people of what he’s about to do, because his first day on the job, he calls the New Orleans regional manager and drops the bomb of his visit right the fuck on poor Greg’s head. Good thing Greg didn’t have anything to do today. The regional manager is confused and bemused at Rick’s plan, which is detailed when the two men meet outside Rick’s motel. He’s totally up for “challenge” of sticking Rick in the field with other workers and remembering to call him “Hank.”
Rick’s first assignment is hanging out with a plumber named Darrell all day doing residential plumbing, or, as he refers to it, “the bread and butter – cabling drains.” Crap. Now I’ve got bread, butter and drain hair all mixing around in my head and it’s GROSS. Their day starts at 10am, and Darrell is very cheerful and kind of in love with his job because he gets to get out and around New Orleans and meet people. Like this man, whose massive and awesome fro did not quite jive with his reserved demeanor.
This hair says party. In several languages.
Darrell is subtitled patronizingly and unnecessarily as he introduces himself and confirms that they’re there to see about a tub that’s draining slowly. Superfro lets them in, and he and his daughter watch quietly as Rick swears and grunts his way through what he’s learning is actual work. Rick and Darrell try a few different strategies to figure out what’s causing the problem, and finally, they discover that a towel was causing the blockage. Darrell surmises that the towel had probably been there a few years. I am curious about a few things involved in this situation. 1. How did the towel come to be in the… tub? 2. How long ago did the towel come to be in the tub? 3. Once in place, how did the towel remain in the tub without causing a problem prior to the arrival of our heroes? Much begs explanation regarding the Mystery of the Wayward Towel.
Rick and Darrell carry out their day going from house to house and pulling all manner of gross shit out of people’s drains. When Rick says that he doesn’t know if he could do what Darrell does day after day, I assume he’s talking about this. It’s one thing to work hard. It’s quite another to work hard elbow deep in human refuse.
Bread and butter, anyone?
Darrell’s wife calls to check up on him, and Rick asks how often she checks up on him while he’s working. Of course, Darrell’s got a story, and it ain’t pretty. He had heart surgery recently and had to take a few months off work to recover. And Rick’s having some chest pains of his own as Darrell reveals that Roto Rooter, in a spectacular display of shittiness, refused to pay him any disability. So financially, he’s fucked, and he still has to go to work, only this time being able to keep less of the money and having to field more calls from his wife than ever. And he’s gone through his savings. Someone mail Darrell some beer.
Their last call is at 8pm, because the work never stops for Darrell, Rick is sad and hungry to learn. The duo is successful once more getting something out of a place it shouldn’t be, so the stuff that should be there, can be. I will say, my mother bred into me a serious distrust of almost all home repair service providers, and Roto-Rooter was at the top of that list. However, after watching these two succeed all day, I can feel some neural pathways realigning. Good for you, Rick.
Job 2: Call center in Chicago. Man, that job must be schizo to high heaven. I’m sure 50% of the calls are desperate people, swimming in shit who see Roto Rooter as the lighthouse in their very arduous journey through plumbing issues, and 50% who are super pissed that they are STILL swimming in shit, and now there’s mud tracked all over their house. Rick helped design the dispatch system that’s used here to get the drivers on their way and track their progress. He’s genuinely excited to try it out and see if he can actually learn to use it effectively. He’s paired up with Candace, who takes her job seriously – not because she likes it, necessarily, but probably because she’s got some horrific backstory that ties her to that desk with ropes woven of questionable decisions.
Every time I see someone on this show like Candace, all I can think now is, “So what makes YOUR life so shitty?”
Candace starts explaining Rick’s system to him, and he is lost in approximately five seconds. The technicians are represented by icons on a computer map, and are color-coded according to where they are on the job (assigned a job, one the way to a job, stand by, blah, blah, blah). Which would be awesome and very helpful… if Rick wasn’t colorblind. Rick muddles his way through as best he can, all the while having a good laugh at himself, and pissing Candace the fuck off. Seriously, the one call he takes drives her so nuts she nearly rips the phone out of his hands to start beating him with it. Not only does Candace take her job seriously, she also takes her training seriously AND her customers. Tragedy of some kind has surgically removed her sense of humor.
Break time ensues and it’s revealed right on time that Candace has an autistic son and she can’t afford childcare. Candace’s chin is definitely up, but you can tell she’s getting pretty tired of holding it there all on her own.
What she said just before this is that having a sense of humor is what gets her through the tough spots. Candace is having a rough time of it.
Break’s over and Rick attempts to take a call, but Candace straight up doesn’t let him. He’s allowed to talk to the customer, but she’s going to work the system. He interrupts, bumbles, and even bullies a little bit talking to the customers, and it’s all Candace can do not to shake the crap out of him. Candace does not have time for this shit.
Job 3: Back to The Big Easy (and if someone could explain that nickname to me, I would be eternally grateful. Wondered about that for yeeeearrrs.), and Rick’s hoping to get on a jet truck that blasts water with such force that it pushes crazy shit that clogs up sewers and whatnot out of the way. He wants to see if the technology can be expanded to other markets in the US, and that is a total load of crap, he is just super excited to play with his new toy, the best water gun God ever made. There’s a lot of twelve-year-old in his voice.
Chris is Rick’s tour guide in sewer maintenance, and turns me off oatmeal for life when he compares it to something that he sees unclogging the lines. Thanks, jackass. That was all I had to eat for breakfast tomorrow. The boys head to a nursing home to blast shit with water (literally), and Rick is eight shades of not up to snuff. Like, he can’t even work his helmet, and Chris just sits there and lets him fail, which is kind of hilarious to watch.
It’s situations like these where you don’t help at first because you think it might actually be more embarrassing to offer…
After the hard hat debacle, Chris and Rick finally get to work. Work at which Rick is not good, and a situation for which Chris has no sympathy. Rick generally just slows everything down, and Chris’ lack of patience with him is explained a little bit more when we learn that he is a recovering addict who is six years sober. If he’s anything like me, he gets pissed off at tiny shit, just because once you’ve fought a really hard battle, you kinda feel like you shouldn’t have to deal with things like cold showers, traffic jams and washing windows ever again. Ask my friends I went to Europe with. There was no hot water in our Rome hostel and I damn near cut a bitch. I definitely threw a battery at someone, and that’s the God’s honest truth.
The guys unclog the sewer after long hours of rolling around in raw crap, and Chris thinks that Rick’s okay, but not amazing. He then throws up his hands and says, “Who knows, he might be my boss someday.” I guarantee you a producer pulled a muscle after the epic fist pump that occurred when Chris uttered that perfect, perfect line.
Rick’s having trouble sleeping because Chris’ alcohol and drug abuse riddled past has brought up the issues he had with his dad. He plainspeaks in that awesome way of his that he simply hadn’t allowed himself to feel or remember anything about that time for a long while. It’s touching.
Job 4: Emergency Plumbing! Apparently this is the tricky stuff. I don’t know about you, Rick, but shoving a hose down a raw sewage pipe without ralphing once looks tricky enough to me. I don’t know if you’ll be able to handle what Henry’s gonna be dishing out. Henry’s been with the company for three years, and used to be a pipe technician at a naval shipyard. On the Top Ten Manliest Jobs in Existence, that is number 8. Henry’s the best pipe guy they’ve got, apparently, and even the other plumbers call him and ask for advice. Like, a lot. Like, an amount I wouldn’t want the COO that had a hand in hiring me to hear.
They hit up an older lady’s house who says that… oh, I don’t know. Something wasn’t draining right and it involved Henry sending Rick under the house to check out a pipe or something. Then Henry asks Rick if there are any rats to be seen, and the look of terror on Rick’s face before he gains control of himself is priceless.
Nowhere to run, Rick. Nowhere to run.
Henry has Rick thread a cable with a camera attached down into the pipe system so they can see about an obstruction. And then Rick acts like somehow his attention span was whittled down to nubbins on the ride there by asking Henry about 8 different times if he can stop feeding the cable. Henry finally has to tell Rick that when it’s time to stop feeding the cable, it will be communicated. And then, eureka! A root is found to be messing up the pipe in some capacity (the audacity of nature), and Henry gives an estimate to the old lady of $1200. And then this woman fucking old ladys the shit out of Henry with delicately exhausted talk of medical issues and the cost of prescriptions and he knocks her bill down to $500! Way to be incredibly effective, ma’am. Rick balks at the discount (as well he should. Now that people have seen the episode, Henry’s probably the most popular plumber within five parishes.), but then is touched to find out that Henry took the money out of commission, not labor or parts. Rick is once again very happy that apparently the only people he has working for him at Roto Rooter are fantastic and face adversity like pros.
The work day drags on until Henry has to abruptly head to basketball practice for a team he coaches. Rick tags along because that wouldn’t be weird at all, and learns that the team is a way for Henry and his wife to spend time with their son and keep him and his friends off the street. The show spends a lot of time talking about how much time and energy it takes to get the boys to the gym (like five whole minutes on how hard it is for Henry’s wife to drive around and grab the kids), and I have a feeling Henry’s gift is going to be of the automotive variety. Henry’s wife tells Rick that Henry spends four nights a week doing this, on top of usually working late. She explains that he loves children and it’s worth the 20-30 hour a week time commitment.
Rick is not a man who does emotions very well, I’m guessing. I say that because after his experience with Henry and with Chris the day before, he literally goes to his hotel room and cries on the phone to his wife about how inspirational everyone is and how he still has baggage from his relationship with Arquilla Sr. Like, cries more than Joel Manby and just looks overwhelmed in general. One more job to go, Rick. Keep it together ’cause I think the next one’s gonna be a doozy…
Job 5: Manufacturing Plant in Des Moines, Iowa. Roto Rooter makes all of their own machines for use in the field, and Rick’s looking forward to being on a factory floor again, like he did a few times with his dad. Ugh, I can already smell fresh tears. We’re introduced to Dan who is a MASTER WELDER! That totally sounds like a character you could choose to play in a game of D&D.
When you sew them together and put them on your head, they gain power.
Dan dresses Rick in the part with all the protective gear including the I FUCKING LOVE AMERICA flag bandanna. Rick doesn’t really act the part, though, failing miserably at welding, and even getting something really hot stuck in his shoe. The only reason I put that in is because he takes his shoe and sock off right in the middle of the floor and the camera does a giant close up of his perfectly fine foot. I hate feet, so that was painful for me to watch and will not be photo-captioned. Use your imagination, Boys and Girls.
Dan truly is a master at what he does, and is also a master at being a good sport, talking about how it was really hard not to laugh at Rick dancing around with one shoe on. They take a break and I’m curious as to how many of his children have died of cancer. The show threw me a curveball, though, and made Dan just a content guy who likes to ride motorcycles, work on classic cars and is worried that his job will be shipped overseas. All of those things the bandanna told me first. Dan’s main function in this entire episode is to communicate how scared witless everyone at the factory is of possibly losing their jobs, especially those close to retirement. Rick makes a big weepy speech at the end of the segment glorifying blue collar workers, and wondering if his dad worked at his plant, would he have liked it? Rick thinks that if he’s lucky enough to have people come work for him, whether or not he’s created a place they want to go every day is his responsibility. I don’t know about that, Rick. Seems like that’s a 50-50 kinda thing…
There’s only so much fixing that can be done, Rick. But you’re a good guy for trying.
The big reveal is upon us, and Darrell, Henry, Candace, Dan and Chris all make their way to Cincinnati with no idea why. It kind of boggles my mind that in 8 episodes, no one’s been like, “Oh, they probably need to do some extra filming,” as opposed to all the nervous, “I might be getting fired!” talk. The reveal reactions are particularly funny this time with Candace laughing nervously about how pissed she was at Rick for sucking and Chris giving a hilarious look to the camera to see if what’s happening is really happening.
Isn’t it fun being manipulated, Chris?
Rick is having so much fun as he teases Darrell and says he’s not Hank. Darrell’s all, “Hank’s brother?” and Rick works a twinkle in his eye that is industry strength.
Don’t stare directly at it.
Rick tells Darrell that he’s a valuable employee and the company is very lucky to have him. Rick’s also investigate the disability claim only to find out that the paperwork was filled out incorrectly, and Darrell will be receiving the full benefit amount now that it’s all straightened out. Rick’s also decided to buy Darrell some gym equipment, get him a nutritionist and get the company to pay for Darrell to shop at a local health food store so Darrell can stay in good shape. Those last three things seemed a wee bit patronizing to me, but honestly, it seems like Rick’s felt pretty impotent when it comes to helping people his whole life, and now that he’s realized he has an opportunity to do it, is running around the generosity candy store taking everything off the shelves and doling it out like the Wizard of Oz giving out hearts and courage.
There’s a musical number happening in Rick’s head right now, and he’s the star.
Dan’s up next, and Rick tells him that he’s never met someone who loves his job the way Dan does. Dan thanks him, but in a credit to his concern for his town and plant, gets right down to business and reiterates to Rick how concerned they all are about the lack of job security in Des Moines. Dan’s present is pretty perfect. He gets to go home and tell everyone that he works with that he’s got it from the lips of the president that the plant will not be closing or outsourced any time soon. Which is really all Dan needs. Good call, Rick. He’s also going to set up a car garage so Dan and his can work on cars together all they like. So in addition to being able to deliver fantastic news, Dan also gets a grown-up playroom. Yahoo!
With that, we’re on to Candace, who’s done everything by herself and for her son for so long that she has absolutely no idea what to expect from someone who appreciates her. Damn, I hope he gives her a mail-order husband so she can at least have someone to carry her groceries inside. No such luck, but Rick does offer to pay for her and her son’s enrollment in an autism center in Chicago. Candace nearly becomes incontinent at that prospect, and I’m surprise she doesn’t lose her bowels completely at the next gift, which is $5000 toward her mortgage enabling her to pay for child care.
It’s all Candace can do to keep her shit together and she adorably asks if she can hug Rick before she leaves. She heads out prepared to do more for her son, and you can see that’s where the real happiness is coming from.
Aaaand Henry. For whom it was so hard to drive around children. Rick compliments him on the sheer amount of time it takes for Henry to do his job and look after the kids at practice. Henry’s selflessness struck Rick pretty deeply, so the company’s going to give Henry a 15-person van to lighten the load of driving everyone around. I really don’t get this. I mean, yay for the van, but were Henry and his wife making like, eight trips a night to ferry everyone around? It didn’t seem like that. Frankly, if Rick could cut Henry’s hours a bit, but still pay him the same wage, I have a feeling it would be more beneficial to everyone involved.
I don’t know, Henry seems pretty bowled over by the van, so maybe I’m wrong. Rick also does him a solid and promotes Henry to Field Supervisor and gives him a raise. Good, now I feel better.
Last but certainly not least, is Chris. And if he were trying for some other self-definition besides being in recovery, he’s not going to find it here. Rick is moved to tears telling him what an inspiration it is to see an addict repair his life when his own father failed to do so. In an incredibly touching moment that shocks me in its sincerity, Rick reveals that meeting Chris this week helped Rick reconcile with his father, even though his father’s no longer there to do it in person. Rick is moved to so many tears, in fact, that Chris actually comforts him, reversing the dynamic of this show all to hell. Chris’ “gift” is that he’s going to travel to other Roto Rooter sites around the country and talk about drug and alcohol awareness. Chris can never, EVER relapse.
Chris does seem really excited about the opportunity to help others who might have a similar problem, and Rick lets him go thanking him heartily for the experience of knowing him. Rick’s pretty cool.
With that, we’re onto the speech. The speech is given, funny video clips are shown, and Rick tells Roto Rooter it’s a new day and blah, blah, blah, good-natured fun. Rick cries some more and it doesn’t even bother me because it’s like he honestly doesn’t know he’s on television, and this is for nothing but the improvement of his company and the improvement of his ability to do his job. Oh, good – title cards!
Underwhelming or overwhelming. I’m guessing former.
Darrell got the disability funds and works out in his home gym, Chris is undergoing public speaking training, Dan got to go home and tell everyone about their new job security, Candace’s son is in a leading autism program in Chicago and Henry’s basketball team went to a national championship! Nothing about his new job or how it’s working out, but that last part was a way better ending than, “Henry is enjoying his new position and plans to take a vacation soon.” Which this show has totally done. See ya next week, cats and kittens – it’s the season finale and while CBS is making it seem like the CEO of 1-800-Flowers gets his cover blown, I’m 99% sure those scenes are 100% less interesting than they seem. I hope Patti Stanger makes a cameo. Now that, a season finale would make.