Feb 2, 2021
19 Kids and Counting RECAP: Highway to Hell (S14:E15)
Had enough of Jill and Jessa? Impossible, I know. But we’re leaving them behind anyway to spend the next few weeks with eldest brother Josh, his wife Anna, and their three toddlers. And boy, oh boy, do we have something exciting in store for you! It’s road trip time on 19 Crazy Christians Fell Out of My Vagina and All I Got Was This Lousy Reality Show!
Josh and Anna are headed to Chicago for the gender reveal party for Anna’s pregnant sister. If you’re thinking “pregnant” and “sister” are perfectly obvious clues what gender she is, then you’re apparently not a 28-year-old woman because otherwise you’d be getting invited to three of these parties a week, usually by your more successful and attractive former classmates. In case you’re unfamiliar, a gender reveal party is a trendy get-together where one “in the know” person feeds a pregnant woman’s dog either a bunch of pink or blue crayons and then the whole family gathers around to drink lime sherbet punch and wait to see what color the dog shit is.
Wait, is that just my family? Hmm, apparently most people just use colored balloons, although that seems much crueler to the dog.
Anywho, we’re still a full day from leaving Josh and Anna’s home in DC. Why start the show so far in advance of the road trip? Because we’ve got an hour-long special to fill, and WE WON’T EVEN MAKE IT TO ANNA’S SISTER’S HOUSE BY THE END OF THE EPISODE. Nope, we’ll spend the entire time stuck in the RV with John, Anna, and their three rugrats. Because it’s not the destination, man, it’s the journey.
For now, it’s not even that. We’re still in Josh and Anna’s living room, asking three-year-old Michael what color shirt he wants to pack for the party. Everyone is supposed to wear either pink or blue depending on whether they predict a girl or a boy. He picks blue for a pretty solid reason: “Because Mackynzie doesn’t want it to be a boy,” he says. Yeah, fuck Mackynzie, am I right?
Josh reminisces about all the times his dad would load the kids into an RV and take off across the country, apparently in matching T-shirts based on the file footage. The clip is from something called On the Road with 16 Kids, which I guess was some sort of precursor to our current program?
Driving straight from DC to Chicago normally takes about 11 hours, but Josh is taking his family (and viewing audience) on a leisurely three-day tour of kitschy Americana landmarks along the way. Pretty exciting, huh? No? Hey, don’t make us pull this show over! We’re not afraid to hit the brakes and grind the episode to complete halt. Fine, you asked for it! Now you’re gonna have to sit there and watch Josh and the kids scrub down the entire RV inside and out. Don’t whine, you brought it on yourself. I bet getting to see the world’s largest coffee pot is sounding pretty damn good to you now, huh?
Okay, now that you’ve learned your lesson, it’s the next morning and we’re ready to get on the road. Let’s crank that engine up and—
Well, fuck. The engine’s as dead as stoned whore in Leviticus.
Josh checks out the batteries, and neither of them have a charge. (Apparently RVs have more than one battery. See, this show can be educational.) The batteries are new, so Josh thinks it’s a more serious problem than just needing a jump. He calls the repair shop, and pretty soon a couple of mechanics show up at his door. (Has that ever happened to you? Mechanics just come a-running? Apparently “you’ll get to be on TV” is the secret cattle call of the American mechanic.)
“They were there to help us. They started checking things,” says Josh, in case anyone was unfamiliar with the concept of mechanics and thought bandits were ransacking the RV. The mechanics come to the same conclusion as Josh (dead batteries are dead), so they tow the RV away to the shop for further diagnostics.
Literally, boohoo—five-year-old Mackynzie starts bawling her little eyes out. What’ll go wrong next? It’s like the movie Vacation but without the humor. (So, Vegas Vacation.)
A few hours later, the RV is returned with even newer batteries, and the Griswolds are finally on their way to Wally World. They start out heading north, zipping across Maryland into Pennsylvania for a quick tour of Amish country. Our first stop is a giant market filled with locally grown produce picked by the Amish and sold by the Mennonites. I can’t tell you how surreal it is to see the Duggars gawking at the wacky antics of backwards Christian fanatics. It’s postmodernism at its most genius, or it would be if it were deliberate. Don DeLillo, eat your heart out.
Anna is very excited to buy healthy snacks to eat over the next three days in the RV. We know this because she tells us before, during, and after the market. It’s almost as many times as Mackynzie tells us that the Amish don’t drive cars.
Because of the late start, that’s the only stop the Duggwolds make today. They roll into an RV park just before dark and start hooking up all the pipes and tubes and whatnot. As Josh pulls out the septic line, he assures us that this is the worst part of any RV trip. “It’s pretty evil,” he says. Maybe he should try the power of prayer. #praytheshitaway. Eh, it’s as likely to work as “curing” gay people.
The next morning, the family arrives at Gettysburg battlefield. “General Mike”—a tour guide and/or reenactor—is there to greet them in full regalia. He teaches the kids to salute and march. They eat it up, and it’s pretty cute. Then Josh tries to teach the kids a little bit about what the soldiers went through during the Civil War because, he says, they need to understand it. Hey, dipshit, your kids are five, three, and one. No, they don’t need to appreciate the agony of war yet. Fortunately, the kids are smart enough to ignore him and have fun hopping all over the giant rocks.
After the battlefield, it’s time for a word from our sponsors. No, we’re not going to commercial. We’re going to Victorian Photography Studio where you, too, can dress up in old timey outfits and have your photo taken with an authentic tintype camera! Anna and Mackynzie dress up in gowns, Josh puts on a Civil War general’s uniform—Union, thank heaven—and Michael is a little drummer boy. Oh, and Marcus is in a funny little dress because before inexpensive, mass-produced clothing, there wasn’t really any such thing as gender-specific baby garments. They don’t explain that in the show; I just threw that one in there for free. You’re welcome.
Product placement complete, we head up the Appalachian Mountains at a steady 20 miles per hour because that’s as fast as the RV can go uphill. Anna keeps the young ‘uns entertained with the alphabet game, and if you think it’s excruciating to play the alphabet game on a long car trip, try watching other people play it on TV.
Eventually, the RV crests the mountain and the Duggwolds arrive in Bedford, Pennsylvania, home of the world’s largest coffee pot! What, you thought I was kidding about that? Although it’s shaped like a three-story coffee carafe like you might get at IHOP, it’s actually set up like a fairytale home with a front door, windows, and colorful furniture. Which means it’s NOT A FUCKING COFFEE POT, and this entire show is a lie!!! The little kids put on brave faces and attempt to have fun anyway.
We’re on the road again, about to reach the Ohio border when trouble strikes. The power steering goes out and Josh has to wrestle the RV into an auto parts store parking lot. Josh was a used car salesman for six years because he’s a soulless liar, apparently, but on the upside it means he knows a little bit about engine repair. (Wait, is the power steering fluid line considered part of the engine? I don’t know shit about cars. Whatever part of the car it is, he knows how to repair it, okay?)
And here’s where I come to a sad realization about myself. I actually found myself thinking, “Ben and Jessa would’ve been fucked if they were the ones out here,” because Ben can’t operate a tape measure and Jessa is helpless nitwit. HOW FUCKING WELL DO YOU HAVE TO KNOW THESE PEOPLE AND THIS SHOW BEFORE YOU THINK SOMETHING LIKE THAT?! What has this site done to me?!
Anyway, the power steering fluid line was split open. (I like to think it was a producer who was trying for the brake line and missed.) Josh replaces it, and on we go.
After an overnight stay at an RV park in Byeville, Ohio, we arrive in Columbus at the most elaborate topiary garden I’ve ever seen. I guess nothing happened there even by this show’s standards, because we’re almost immediately back on the road again.
We cross the border into Indiana, and chunks of the RV roof start peeling off and littering the highway. Josh immediately confirms that the patch he put on a hole in the roof two weeks ago is flaking off. He repairs it with something in an aerosol spray can. Wait, there’s such thing as A SPRAY-ON ROOF?! That’s like some James Bond shit, isn’t it? What does it even stick to? I think we’re glossing over the most interesting part of the show, but no one else seems impressed so off we go again.
Next up is the Indiana State Fair. Michael and Mackynzie are excited to ride the rides, but Josh is having flashbacks of the entire Duggar family getting motion sick on a small airplane. Hell yes, there’s footage. Who doesn’t want to watch Jim Bob throw up in an air sickness bag? See what you miss when you don’t watch the show and only read the recaps? But Josh gives in and accompanies the little scamps on various spinning contraptions. The kids are loving it, but eventually Josh’s stomach gets the best of him. Fortunately, he knows when to say when and tells the kids enough rides before he blows chunks.
Being sick to his stomach, Josh does the only logical thing and deliberately goes in search of the most bizarre fair food he can find. Eventually he settles on a hamburger made with two glazed donuts instead of a bun. That… that can’t possibly be good, right? He LOVES it. Fortunately, Anna is there to take a bite and assure us it’s disgusting.
And we see how Josh went from this…
At last, it’s our final day on the road.
Our first stop is a commercial farm/tourist trap? Hey, if you can figure out how to make that work, more power to you. Josh and Anna say the name of the place like a hundred times so you know they’re paying for the product placement, but I never could figure out what they were saying—Ferris Farm? Pharoah’s Farm?—so you can decide if it was money well spent.
If you ever want to watch a cow being born, this is the place to go. Anna says it happens every hour in the birthing center, although if that’s true, I don’t even want to know how they manage to keep the momma cows to the schedule. The kids are pretty fascinated by the whole thing, and I got to see a momma cow bathing her newborn calf, so I’ve got nothing to complain about either.
Now it’s lunch time, and the Duggwolds head over to Del Rey’s Chicken Basket like I’m supposed to have heard of it. As obvious as some of the product placement is on this show, this one is the absolute most awkward and painful. When the waitress shows up at the table, Anna begins to pepper her with questions like, “What’s the secret to your chicken being so perfect?” Gosh, Anna, thank you for that sincere and unscripted question. Why don’t you come back to the kitchen and see for yourself?
In the kitchen, Chef Juan shows Anna how to properly bread the chicken but won’t share with her the restaurant’s secret recipe. Both Josh and Anna feign disappointment, but how bad did they really want it? She didn’t even offer to blow him or anything.
“The food was great. Our family really enjoyed our visit to Del Rey’s Chicken Basket,” says Josh.
What P.R. hack wrote that stiff, lazy, awkward dialogue? And what idiot producer decided to end the show on that note? Hey, Duggars, take some of that product placement money and HIRE SOME PEOPLE WHO DON’T SUCK AT THEIR JOBS.