19 Kids And Counting Recap: Come Back, Snipy, Come Back!!
This is my first time watching 19 Kids and Counting. But with medium-sized TV blogs comes medium-sized responsibility, so I am ready to accept my fate.
Coming into the season premiere—which aired last night on TLC—the only two things I knew about the show came from the two Duggar articles I’ve written so far for HNTP: 1) 21-year-old Jessa will get engaged at some point this season and 2) Momma Duggar is totally cool with convicted transsexual sex offenders hanging out in public restrooms with her young sons.
Beyond that, it’s all new. Do the producers set up bug-eating competitions between the kids? Will they send in a good-looking actor to see if he can talk one the daughters into smoking a cigarette or an open-mouth kiss? Or maybe they’ll bus the entire clan over to Buddhist temple for some fish-out-of-water hijinks!
Those were my thoughts going in. I quickly discovered the answer is no. Nothing like that happens. In fact, nothing happens AT ALL.
(Oops, spoiler alert.)
But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s start this recap at the beginning by all singing the 19 Kids and Counting theme song together:
That’s great, it starts with a Josh, Jana/John-David, Jill and Jessa/and Lenny Bruce is not afraid.
The episode kicks off with a brief montage of second daughter Jill’s relationship with now-fiancé Derick. They chat online for 3.5 months, then court for 4.5 months, then he pops the question (Derick: “Jill Duggar, will you marry me?” Jill: “Yes, totally.”)
Once Derick gives Daddy Duggar 50 sheep and camel, they’re officially engaged and allowed to hold hands. Like, skin to skin and everything. I had to avert my eyes and sing “My God Is an Awesome God” until my erection went away.
The flashback ends, and now we’re sitting around the Duggars’ kitchen table with a wedding planner. Jill and Derick are quickly overwhelmed by the number of decisions required. Say, that’s a relatable problem and a good source of conflict between our stars. Could it be we’ve found our plot for the episode? Nah, the scene comes to an end without anybody deciding, debating, or even discussing a damn thing. Not even when Jill says she plans to invite between 1,000 and 1,500 guests. Not even when Derick suggests a “salsa fountain” at the reception.
Next, Daddy Duggar and an ill-defined number of his spawn are cleaning up the inside of a house they’ve flipped. Okay, cool, I watch Property Brothers. Let’s get some drama going—leaking pipes, cracked countertop, asbestos, throw me a fucking bone here. Actually, the entire house is already completed and all the kids are just happily sweeping up. Sigh, it’s going to a long show.
Daddy Duggar reveals that he plans to let Jill and Derick move in after they get married. (Temporarily. Until he’s ready to sell it. Then they can fuck right off.) And then it’s back to sweeping.
And more sweeping.
And then something unexpected happens. Ten-year-old Jackson (or maybe 11-year-old Justin, who the fuck knows) quietly approaches his dad with an embarrassing problem. It seems our young man had some wood pop up unexpected, and he’s not sure how to make it go away. It’s just sticking out from his body at an awkward angle and it’s really uncomfortable.
Fortunately, dad has a solution—his pocket knife. Naturally, the kid is terrified, but with a quick flick of the knife the splinter is removed. Whew, crisis averted!
“He pretty much took it like a man,” beams Justin with pride in his little brother.
“I lived through it,” deadpans Jackson, making him easily my favorite Duggar so far. I sincerely hope this kid turns out to have some attitude and it wasn’t a fluke of editing.
Of course, the show didn’t rely on dick jokes to try to make the scene funny or interesting. They played that splinter straight up like it was the most exciting and dramatic splinter in the history of western television. And hell, maybe it was, but that’s still some boring fucking TV.
A short time later, eldest son Josh and his opposite-sex spouse Anna drop by the new house for a few minutes. You can practically hear the producers begging them to whine about Jill getting this recently flipped mansion while they’re stuck in a 960 sq. ft. starter home, but they don’t play ball. Sorry, producers, no drama here.
Meanwhile, Jill and Derick head to the hospital to visit Derick’s mom, who is getting chemotherapy for lymphoma. A few weeks ago, she says, she felt a couple of jellybean-sized bumps in her neck. She would have ignored them but her husband insisted she go to the doctor. It’s a good PSA on recognizing the symptoms of lymphoma, and I’m glad they took the time to include it.
It’s too bad they didn’t take time to include anything else. There’s no real interaction between Derick and his mom, or Derick and Jill, so the entire scene falls incredibly flat.
A commercial break later it’s Mother’s Day, and Jessa is cooking dinner for the entire family… plus her boyfriend Ben’s entire family as well. Uh-oh, can Jessa prove she’s wife material?!
This is the point it became clear to me that the episode would have no overarching story or theme. I had been trying to force a sense of narrative flow onto the preceding scenes, but if you’re going straight from cancer ward to zany kitchen antics, you’re obviously just slapping together a mishmash of random happenings.
“My rolls!” shouts Jessa and runs out of the room. “I burned the rolls,” she exclaims, while pulling perfectly cooked rolls out of the oven. I appreciate that she’s at least trying to add some tension to the scene, but I have eyes. The only thing she’s accomplished is that I’m now bored and hungry.
A little Pop-Up Video box appears on the screen and informs us that if the Duggars ate rolls with every meal, they’d eat 7,665 rolls a year, but they don’t, so who gives a rat’s ass.
At last, it’s dinner time. I know you’re all the edge of your seat waiting to find out if Jessa impressed the Chopped judges, but fuck you, the food is never mentioned again. There’s absolutely no payoff to the last ten minutes of watching Jessa fret about her cooking.
Instead, Daddy Duggar takes the floor and offers to let Boyfriend Ben move into the family’s guest house. The offer is greeted with exactly as much surprise and excitement as the new Robin Thicke album, but eventually Ben says yes. Ben’s parents say this going to be a wonderful opportunity for their baby boy to get new experiences in life. Yeah, because after growing up in Hot Springs, Arkansas, I bet Bentonville, Arkansas, will just blow your fucking mind.
After dinner, or maybe the next day (narrative means nothing here), eldest son Josh and his personal property Anna bid farewell to the family so they can fly back to Washington, D.C., where he’s the executive director of Tony Perkins’s Family Research Council, and that’s not even a joke. The goodbyes take a good seventeen minutes of screen time, which might have been hilarious if played for humor, but it’s as dry and pointless as every other scene so far.
Next, Jessa and her sisters get to decorate Ben’s new room, which appears to be the inside of an aluminum PODS® container. They chose two mounted deer heads because of course they do. (I expected a lot more of this sort of “let’s laugh at these redneck morons” opportunities, but they’ve been surprisingly few and far between. Quite disappointing.)
“Ben is moving into our guest house,” Jessa reminds us.
“Ben is moving into our guest house,” Jessa tells her sister.
“Ben is moving into our guest house,” Jessa tells us again.
“Ben is moving into our guest house,” Jessa tells another sister.
If Jessa came off as excited, the repetition might serve a point. Instead, it’s clear that no one can think of anything else to say for narration over the decorating scenes. I’ve long since given up hope that any two people will ever actually hold a conversation on this show. It’s entirely strung together by banal confession cam clips. Nowhere is that more obvious than when Jessa says, “Ben is moving in today,” followed by another sister saying, “Ben is living here now.” We. Fucking. Know.
The narration soon drifts into various Duggars speculating how hard it will be for Jessa and Ben to keep their hands off of each other now that they get to see each other every day. However, there’s never actually any sign that this bizarrely reserved way of life that earned them a fucking reality show is at all difficult for anyone involved. So far, there’s been no hint of conflict, no sense of hardship, nothing to overcome. And I remind you, this is an episode featured a woman in the hospital getting chemotherapy for cancer.
Even John Boy Walton would have started wearing black lipstick and cutting himself by now if he’d been forced to live in such a sanitized, vacuous universe.
Anyways, Jessa and 16-year-old Joy-Anna go visit Ben in his room, which he loves, but really, what else is he gonna say? And I was wrong before when I said there was no place where the narration gets more repetitive and superfluous.
“I’ll take you on a tour,” Joy-Anna tells Ben.
“I took him on a tour,” Joy-Anna tells the camera.
“I. Fucking. Know,” I yell at the screen.
And we round out the episode with Joy-Anna showing Ben which stumps on the farm need to be removed while Jessa voices over how excited she is to have Ben living on the homestead.
Wow. All I can says is keep popping out kids, Michelle. Maybe someday one of them won’t be boring as fuck.